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COMPLETE: I'm A Marionette [MATURE]

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A Facadeverse fic

"Are you okay?"
In which Wallace isn't okay, but he gets better. Eventually.

Alternate summary: college/YA Wallace tries to hide the fact that he's a mess.


So this story originally started back in 2020 as part backstory stuff for a fic that never saw the light of day (a fic that eventually became the Facadeverse fics), part venting when I was suicidal and depressed over quarantine before I was diagnosed with GAD and PMDD (I would have a low, and in order to deal with urges to try purging or relapse into self harm and self starving, I would write about Wallace doing it instead). If you're wondering if I'm okay, yes, I'm okay. I'm in therapy, I'm taking meds, and while I'm not 100% better. I'm getting there. This fic follows a similar trajectory of things falling downhill before getting better.

I decided to go back to this story and publish it because 1. I wasn't letting it go to waste (I have 30k+ words of that old fic, and I refuse to let those words go to waste), and 2. there are some things that can't easily be conveyed in the form of a drabble (like in But How Will It Be). I decided to post it here because someone seemed to want me to do it. I forgot who, but to whoever wanted me to: thank you.

This story is rated Mature.

This story contains depictions of:
eating disorders (including starving and purging)
alcohol and alcohol abuse
drug abuse
(including alcohol, LSD, marijuana, sedatives, and stimulants. There's also depictions of withdrawal, which includes an offscreen seizure)
parental death
self harm
abuse
(physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual)
sexual harassment and sexual assault
manipulation and grooming
mental illness
(including depressive symptoms, panic attacks, and manic episodes)
bigotry (including Fantastic Racism, homophobia, and enbyphobia, ableism, and occasional use of slurs)
suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and offscreen deaths by suicide
blood, needles, and hospitals
implied consensual sexual content and discussions and themes of sexuality
messy and unhealthy relationships


Several things can't easily be stripped from the story (especially depictions of eating disorders and abuse), but summaries and chapters stripped of other elements can be provided upon request. Individual chapter content warnings are provided at the beginning of each chapter.

Also: if you feel this story warrants other content warnings, please tell me.

Notes for reviewers:

To put it bluntly, I started writing this series as a way to vent trauma and a desire to explore darker themes in a safe environment. I was in a very fucked-up place when I first started this, things got worse, then things got better. Eventually, it grew a little something called a plot, and I decided to not starve that plot and let it blossom into a flower called story, though the dirt and soil that is venting remains. I put stuff out on the internet with the hope that my writing can help someone else, but also so I can improve as a writer. Due to the nature of how personal my writing is and how my brain works, this fic can... make it hard. On top of that, I have perfection issues and want to please everyone, but I've come to learn that maybe this fic was right, and maybe I shouldn't be doing that.

What I'm trying to say is that I want concrit on this fic, but I ask that you keep in mind that I might not act on all concrit for personal reasons and that some critique especially can be psychologically triggering.

I especially want critique on:
  • Grammar/punctuation/typos
  • Medical accuracy (how a thing is being treated, how hospitals work, etc. I'm not a doctor or a therapist, and a lot of my information comes from reading medical articles and first hand testimonials online.)
  • Plot/worldbuilding cohesiveness (does a thing said contradict facts that were established before? Does the world feel real and live-in?) This includes xeno POV, because xeno is something very new to me, and there's a lot you can do with it.
  • Descriptions (they’re a weak point for me, especially character reaction descriptions. I would appreciate suggestions on how to expand on certain parts.)
  • Representation (If something isn’t sitting right, feel free to point it out, because I don’t want my work to hurt others. Some things—like queer and ND themes—come from personal experience, but others don’t. Also as a disclaimer within a disclaimer: I can not represent an entire group in a single character, but I can represent a single character in a single character.)
  • AO3 italics spacing stuff. (My beloath'd.)
  • Not a critique, but line-by-line reactions are cool and epic.
I do not want critique on:
  • The themes I write about (“you shouldn’t be writing X, Y, and Z”)
  • How characters behave (I write a lot of fucked up characters and fucked up shit. Commentary on how a relationship seems is cool, because sometimes I don’t intend a relationship to be written in a certain way, but I ask that it be worded as neutrally as possible, because sometimes something is intentional, but other times it isn’t.)
  • Villains are… a complicated mess. Because in Torchic writing, they’re more representations of themes and psyches than they are actual characters. I've come to accept that they're the most unrealistic part of my fics. I try to give them character, but… it’s hard when characters start out as concepts.
  • General story beats. They're pretty hard to implement without sweeping changes, and I wish not to get stuck in rewrite hell.
In general, I ask that you don’t be too harsh with critiques. I have a hard time not taking things personally.

Assorted resources and helplines, including several international links and numbers:
 
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Magic Mirror on the wall, give me some direction
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Mentions of purging and transphobia, anxiety

Wallace stared at his reflection in the mirror. He used to be just a little short for his age. His Hinodego name, Mikouri, meant "little child" in Sootopolitan Chrysosian; he had been a small baby, a small toddler, a small child. It was just one of the many things people would tease him for.

But then, at the age of fifteen and a half, he had a sudden growth spurt. Now he was just shy of sixteen, with a lanky frame and a height of just under six feet. He felt awkward. He felt weird. He felt confused.

In ten minutes, he and Victoria would be performing in their first Contest.

Wallace picked up his beret and put it on. After staring at his reflection some more, he became dissatisfied with his appearance and took it off. He wore a purple shirt, white jacket, turquoise dress pants, and white boots. At least he had settled on that much—his outfit. If he was going to be defying Megalos and taking part in Contests, Wallace had to look professional in a way that would please him.

The green room of the Lilycove Contest Hall was sort of green, but it was more blue in Wallace's opinion. It was aqua: aqua tiles, dark aqua walls, light aqua chairs and tables. All four of Hoenn's Contest Halls had a different color palette: mauve for Slateport, scarlet for Fallarbor, emerald for Verdanturf, aqua for Lilycove.

They also all looked perfect. Everything was polished and lit to perfection. Everything smelled of clean linoleum and expensive, floral cleaning products. It was sometimes overwhelming, especially the lights, especially right now.

Victoria watched as he took out his makeup case and put on foundation and turquoise eyeshadow. Wallace had spent a whole hour making sure his Milotic looked her best—her scales shimmered like a lake, and her Blue Scarf was tied into a perfect bow—and now he was nearing an hour and a half spent on his own appearance.

If only there was a dimmer on the mirror lights. It would make doing his makeup easier.

(“Wallace, you look fine,”) Victoria pleaded. (“Come on, I want to talk to Lovelynn.”)

“I look like a slut.”

Victoria cocked her head. (“What does that word mean?”)

It meant… well, on a dictionary level, it meant “derogatory term for a person, usually a woman, with many casual sexual partners”. But Megalos used it for all sorts of people: feminine men, masculine women, Wallace… wherever Wallace fell on the spectrum. It wasn’t a very nice word, but Wallace couldn’t help but use it on himself.

“Human stuff. You wouldn’t understand.”

Wallace returned to his makeup. He put on lipstick of a subtle shade of pink, but after five seconds, he wiped it off. Everything felt off, down to the finest details of his face.

He looked up to established and well known Coordinators—especially his teacher Juan—and saw that the main difference between him and them was that he wasn’t perfect. Especially Juan. Juan was so intelligent, so elegant, so perfect. If Wallace couldn’t be perfect like that, how would he succeed?

The stress made him feel sick.

Victoria rested her head on Wallace's. He gently petted her head, hoping some of her calmness would rub onto him. She was long for a Milotic, though her head fins were ever so slightly shorter than one of a Milotic born female. She was born male, but deep down, she knew she was female. Such was acceptable among most Water types. They were fluid in their appearances and sex, ever changing and beautiful in expression. The same couldn’t be said for humans.

Wallace could find some solidarity with her; he was born male, but deep down, he knew he was... female? Male? Neither? Deep down, his true self was still foggy and blurry. Either way, he feared what people would say if they knew he so much as questioned his identity.

But Pokémon kept secrets, as the Hinodego saying went. Wallace’s confusion was safe with Victoria.

There was a knock at the door, and Victoria slithered over to open it. Meanwhile, Wallace prayed that it wasn't Megalos coming to scold him for taking part in such a "feminine" sport.

It wasn't, thank the heavens. It was his sister.

“You excited?” Nicole asked as she walked into the green room. She wasn't taking part in the Contest, but that didn't mean she wouldn't come and support her younger brother. As a former Coordinator, she knew the ins and outs of performing well.

She had the same hair and eye color as Wallace, but unlike Wallace, she was perfect. Her white shirt and skirt were perfect. Her simple makeup was perfect. Her posture was perfect. If they were siblings, then why couldn't he be perfect?

“Wallace.”

Wallace forced a small smile and forced down his anger. He couldn’t feel anger towards his sister; that was immoral.

“Sure,” he said. In this context, “sure” meant something more akin to “I might puke.” Nicole seemed to pick up on this, because she walked over to him and looked at his reflection with a sympathetic look.

“I was nervous before my first Contest,” Nicole said, placing her hands on his shoulders as she looked at their reflection in the mirror, “but as soon as I stepped onto the stage, all worries fell to the wayside, and Goldie and I both took home gold.”

Except she had been perfect. Nicole and her Goldeen had been perfect, with not a single hair or scale out of place. They weren't nervous. Wallace couldn't imagine Nicole ever being nervous, because she never was.

Surely she knew that he was inferior to her. Surely she knew how pathetic he was. Surely she was only pitying him. That's how everyone in his family viewed him. Wallace had been hand picked by Mayor Megalos to serve Sootopolis City, but his family was more worthy of such a privilege, and they made sure to remind him of that:

"Sick again? Weren't you just sick with a cough a few days ago, Mikró Mikouri?"

"You're so slow, Mikró Mikouri! You can't even keep up with us!"

"Why did the mayor choose you? You're nothing special, Mikró Mikouri."


"Wallace?" Nicole asked. "Is everything okay?"

He wasn’t okay; he was feeling a lot of emotions, none of them good emotions.

“What if I step onto the stage and spill my guts out on it?” he mumbled.

Nicole gently turned Wallace around so he faced her—the real her, not her reflection.

"Wallace, look up at me." She smiled when Wallace did. "Kamari mou, you’re going to be just fine.”

He didn’t feel like he was going to be fine. Maybe Megalos was right. Maybe Contests were a bad idea. Better to not try than be imperfect trying. Or maybe he could be perfect trying if he could get rid of his anxiety.

“I don't want to risk it. Maybe I should make myself throw up so I don’t feel so nauseous—”

Nicole's smile fell.

“Don’t say things like that.” Her face was stern but concerned. “Making yourself sick won’t make you feel better.”

Getting sick wasn’t fun; frequent influenza and other illnesses as a child taught Wallace that well. Part of it was from how yucky it was, but part of it was also the lack of control. Maybe it wasn’t so bad when you were the one controlling it.

“Are you sure?” Wallace asked.

“Wallace, would I lie to you?”

Nicole had lied before. When she was planning surprises for Wallace, for example. And when father wasn’t okay, back when he and mother were still alive… Maybe she was lying out of ignorance rather than malice. After all, she had never gotten nervous. She had never needed to make herself sick.

“Perhaps.”

Nicole crossed her arms. “Wallace.”

Wallace rolled his eyes. “Fine. No, you wouldn’t.”

Nicole smiled. “There’s my Mikouri. Now listen: I’ll be out there in the audience with Raphael and Lisia. We’ll all be cheering for you. You’ll do great.”

Wallace trusted the first two statements, maybe not the third.

He gestured his hand towards Victoria, who straightened up with poised pride. “How does Victoria look?” he asked.

“Beautiful.”

Wallace motioned his hand back towards himself. “How do I look?”

Nicole’s eyes darted towards the counter. She picked up the beret and put it on Wallace.

“Beautiful.”

Kamari mou - Greek, "my pride"
Mikró - Greek, small
 
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i'm a marionette everybody's pet just as long as i sing
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Panic attack, descriptions of restricted eating habits, discussions of transphobia and homophobia, depictions of purging/self induced vomiting, mentions of self harm, overstimulation, body shaming, themes of poverty and corruption, mentions of past character death, discussions of dysfunctional family

It wasn’t an eating disorder.

He wasn’t restricting what he ate to get thinner; he was thin enough. He was fixated on the imperfections of his body to the edge of obsession, but that wasn’t the main reason for his restriction. It was restriction for the sake of control.

His duties and training were rigid shackles, dragging him across tumultuous oceans. He was at the mercy of the press, Kenta Cockburn, the socialites of Sootopolis City, his family, and—most of all, Megalos.

Everything about his self was imperfect, and no one could know. He found himself falling in love with his fellow Coordinators, male or female. He found himself wanting to crossdress more, like his parents let him when he was a kid. He found himself looking in the mirror and feeling… even more off, even less like a man, and yet not like a woman either. But no one could know; Trainers and Coordinators who were outed as gay were ostracized, and “men who called themselves women” were mocked on the front pages of every tabloid. His grandparents didn’t approve of people who defied tradition, and Megalos especially wouldn’t like it if Wallace was gay or called himself anything other than a man.

Socialites at Megalos’s parties would sometimes hit on Wallace, but it only got worse once he reached the age of consent. On top of that, eighteen was the age when Wallace started dealing with Megalos’s matchmaking with the wealthy debutantes of Hoenn, matchmaking that his grandparents endorsed so he could produce great grandkids. If Wallace was lucky, they were close to him in age, maybe even tolerant of his love of art. But usually, his luck ran dry, and the women he had to put up with for a month or so would hurl abusive remarks at him, or they would touch him in ways he didn't feel comfortable with, or they would call him weird for liking art and Water types as much as he did. And all he could do was put up with it until the women eventually broke up with him for one reason or another—much to Megalos’s anger.

And as if all of that wasn’t enough, there were his duties: Duties as Sootopolis City’s Gym Leader, to give the city some semblance of pride and to appease Kenta Cockburn. Duties as a future Lorekeeper, tasked with learning and memorizing his people’s stories and the secrets of speaking with the gods. Duties as a Papadakis, and his grandparents’ only male descendant. But most of all, duties to serve Megalos, and in turn Sootopolis.

He couldn’t be himself openly. He couldn’t choose his romantic partner. He couldn’t control his duties.

But he could control what he ate.

For breakfast, it was toast. For lunch, half a bowl of rice. For dinner, salad made of lettuce and carrots. Sometimes, he skipped lunch. He could compensate for any vitamin deficiencies with supplements. That’s why they existed: for vitamin deficiencies.

Was he hungry? Of course he was. Was he tired? Seemingly constantly. Did he feel like shit? Absolutely. He could ignore those side effects just fine. They didn’t mean anything serious. He wasn’t in the hospital, so he was fine. He wasn’t, so he was fine. And besides, fasting—or Nisteía—was a part of Rounékyo Feast Weeks. Sure, Wallace restricted his eating even when he was supposed to do the opposite, but surely the gods would understand that it was for the best.

His family sure didn't.

"You look like you're going to blow away in the wind, Mikró Mikouri!"

"You don't eat enough, Mikró Mikouri! Don't you like my cooking?"

"You're so skinny, Mikró Mikouri. Aeolus and I need to fatten you up."


Wallace got downright terrified at the prospect of eating with other people, even just one person or Pokémon. Because of this, he avoided it by any means possible. He made excuses every time there was a family gathering involving food, planned dates anywhere but restaurants or cafés, and refused to talk about eating under any circumstances. He ate by himself, locked up in his room with the excuse of schoolwork. Not even Victoria was allowed to see him eat—she fussed too much about him, and that only stressed Wallace out more.

He probably looked like a lunatic. His family always gave him weird looks when he couldn't go to a dinner or when he turned down a meal. But sometimes, the pressure and questions were too much, and he had to eat past his restrictions. When he had to, he felt like he was dying. His chest tightened up. Breathing became harder. He feared he would throw up in front of other people.

Worst of all, he felt like he had failed his parents and Sootopolis City, that the gods would punish him for failing to be disciplined, perfect, because he couldn’t even stick by his guidelines.

But it wasn't so bad, right? It gave him control. It gave him control.

-

Nicole’s house was bathed in soft light from the ceiling windows. Every piece of furniture was a warm shade of brown that accented the traditional whitewashed walls and blue accenting. The walls and shelves were decorated with watercolor paintings by Nicole and Wallace, family photos, snippets of poetry written by father, mother’s sheet music… photos from Nicole’s countless Contest wins. Sometimes Wallace would spend hours looking at the pictures, hearing the stories from Nicole or in his head. He wondered why she had given up the Contest life; she was perfect onstage. Wallace couldn’t even be perfect in his day-to-day life.

The kitchen had some of the amenities of modern life, but it still had the domed ceilings watching overhead. The fridge was covered in pictures by Lisia and Wallace. And of course, there was the aroma of spices and home cooked food, an aroma that became overwhelming when you were sticking to a strict diet.

Nicole set a plate down on the table. “Here you go. You don’t want to perform on an empty stomach.”

Fettuccine Alfredo. Wallace's favorite meal. How long had it been since he had eaten it? A couple months? A year? Gosh, even just smelling it brought happy feelings. He couldn’t remember the memories attached to them; he had suppressed most food related memories so he could fight off hunger and focus on his studies.

But still… he was hungry.

Aren't you disciplined? Aren't you in control?

Nicole's going to think you're a freak if you don't eat.

You're going to fail this Contest if you eat.

You're going to fail this Contest if you don't eat.


"Wallace?"

Nicole stared at Wallace. She gave him a small smile, but even then it was a perfect smile.

"Thank you, Nicole," he sighed.

Nicole picked up Wallace's beret from the table and on his head, but he took it off right after she did. His hair was short and tousled; he had cut it in the middle of the previous night out of a half conscious impulse, in part driven by confusion, in part driven by hating his appearance. At least he had been able to resist the urge to cut his arms with the scissors.

"Come on, Wallace,” Nicole said as she tried to put the beret back on.

Wallace gently swatted her hand away. He wasn’t a child anymore. He didn’t need the silly hat he wore as a child. "I look stupid in hats, Nicole."

Nicole chuckled and shook her head. "No you don't."

"I'm not in a 'wearing my beret' mood,” Wallace sighed.

Nicole cocked her head playfully. "Are you in a 'fettuccine Alfredo' mood?"

The two stared at each other. Wallace was… he wasn’t sure whether or not he was in a ‘fettuccine Alfredo’ mood. Well, he was, but he didn’t want to be.

Eventually, he gave up. “Fine. I am.”

Nicole giggled before hugging Wallace. Her happiness and love were contagious. Despite his anxiety, Wallace couldn’t help but smile. The two had been through so much, and yet she still tried to make the people around her happy. Wallace had to be happy for her.

He could make her happy, right? He could let himself eat and feel happy, right? He could let himself have a little more than his strict limitations, right?

-

The shuttles leaving Sootopolis were always crowded before noon; all of the worthwhile jobs were outside the city. Luckily, in the afternoon, they were uncongested enough that Victoria could be out of her Pokéball and rest her head on Wallace’s lap. Her presence was comforting, and for a moment, it distracted him from the nagging regret for eating the fettuccine Alfredo. He wanted to—

(“Wallace. Head pats.”) Annoyance was clear as a lake in Victoria’s voice.

With a forced sigh, Wallace went back to petting Victoria. He could feel her smile.

(“Good.”) Petty little… big fish. Well, at the very least, it gave Wallace something to keep his mind on besides the motion sickness, the anxiety, the regret—

No. Head pats. Head pats for Victoria. No bad thoughts. Just head pats for Victoria.

-

Slateport City, the city where Wallace’s maternal family has come from.

Well, he didn’t know a whole lot about his mother’s side of the family, other than the fact that they were poor immigrants and the fact that most of them died before he was even born. He had that one uncle who had moved to Kalos, but he rarely spoke to Wallace’s paternal family. The Papadakes and Izumis grew… distant after Wallace’s parents died, not that they had liked each other much before.

But family was important! Family was the cornerstone of Sootopolitan culture! Family gave Wallace a sense of identity, a sense of pride. His family wasn’t always kind to him, but he was proud to be a Papadakis, and he had to make his family proud that he was chosen by Megalos.

But still, Wallace had a lot of questions: Why did everyone hate his parents? What was wrong with his father, and why did everyone say he had cursed the family? Why did Uncle Milas disappear? Why did the family act like he had never existed? Why did Cousin Kristina get treated like a bastard child? Why did Cousin Kristina and Lisia get treated like they were freaks?

But no one ever wanted to talk about that. People always shut down his questions about that.

Why did no one like talking about that? Family was weird and confusing. Wasn’t family supposed to be loving and simple? Wasn—

A Poochyena barked at Wallace. He gasped and stumbled against an old, concrete building.

The center of the city was beautiful, but the west side slums were rife with filth, corruption, and poverty. Wallace couldn’t blame the people living there. From the stories he heard, up to three families would live in one apartment. The breadwinners would have to work two, sometimes three jobs. All those people and Pokémon, who had families to take care of, who probably faced disease and starvation, who could barely afford to put food on their table…

And look at you. You’re able to eat, but you can’t help those people who can’t eat.

You’re selfish for eating that.

You’re selfish for not wanting to eat it.


He thought about ducking into an alley to make himself sick, to make the thoughts go away. At least then he would be able to control the inevitable nausea clawing up his throat.

Despite how hot it was, Wallace wore long sleeves in dull colors. He didn’t want anyone commenting on his body, whether to insult it or to objectify it. He felt like he was going to keel over or throw up, but oh well. Such was life.

There was a small Arcean church on the way to the Contest Hall. Gray stone, one story tall, rusty bell in the tower.

Inside, the plaster walls and wooden pews showed signs of age and wear, but that age made Wallace feel like this place was a childhood memory, even though he wasn’t even an Arcean.

By the door, there was a wooden box with a slit in the top. The sign above read, “Blessed be the poor. Blessed be the charitable.”

Wallace opened his shoulder bag and took out his wallet. He slipped out about 3,000 Pokédollars and dropped it inside the box. So what if he was a Rounékyoto? It was Rounékyo principle to love your neighbor, help the poor, and remember where you came from.

“Who are you?”

The sudden voice startled Wallace. It was just an old lady with wispy, white hair and white and gold robes. She was sitting in the pews, reading Arcean scripture.

Wallace bowed. “Wallace Papadakis. Um… Do you know of the late Lucille Izumi?”

The woman thought for a second. “Ah… that woman. I remember her. She and her father would make meals at this church. She was a good cook.”

“She sure was…” Wallace couldn’t remember much of his mother’s cooking. He knew she knew a lot of recipes, but he couldn’t remember any of them. He knew she was a good cook, but he couldn’t remember how exactly her food tasted. Maybe his memory was just bad. Maybe he had suppressed those memories along with his hunger pangs.

The old lady squinted, tilting her head. “You’re the Runekyō priest, aren’t you?”

“Lorekeeper. Still in training. Though my mother was Arcean.”

The old lady’s eyes widened, and a smile formed on her face. “Ah, you’re her son, aren’t you? Bless your heart for stopping by our humble church. I see she raised you well.”

Wallace could see deceit in the woman’s eyes. He could see the disgust, the shame, the hate. He could hear what she was thinking:

She tried to raise you well, but you still grew up fucked up. Look at you in your ugly clothes and your ugly body. Look at your slutty, fake identity. Look how you’re trying to compensate with money—how materialistic. How selfish. What are you? What would your mother say?

“Child, are you well? You look sick.”

Wallace felt sick; in fact, he feared he was close to fainting. He half-walked, half-stumbled towards the door.

“I have to go.” Wallace began to walk away, regretting ever eating that fettuccine Alfredo.

-

He was still regretting eating when he got to the Contest Hall.

Stress before Contests wasn’t new to Wallace, but it seemed even more overwhelming this time. Every single noise was too loud. Every light was too bright. Everything was too much.

This feeling wasn’t new to Wallace, but over the years, he had learned to suck it up and put up with it. Everyone else was able to tolerate overwhelm, so why couldn’t he? Besides, the future and image of Sootopolis City was more important than his feelings.

But now he couldn’t even focus on what his and Victoria’s routine was supposed to be. His hands were shaking too much to put on Victoria's makeup, and they both needed makeup to look and be perfect.

“Are you okay?”

Hailey, one of Wallace’s friends and Contest rivals, was staring at him, her brows furrowed with concern. Even she was perfect: perfect short, brown hair; perfect brown eyes; perfect short blue dress; perfect gold eyeshadow and lipstick.

Victoria gently nuzzled her head against Wallace’s. (“Wallace? Are you okay?”)

Everyone around you is better. Everyone around you is in control. Hailey is in control. Victoria is in control. What about you? WHAT ABOUT YOU?

“I’m fine.” Wallace smirked, pointing to his beloved Milotic. “Victoria is fine, too. You should be worrying about yourself. We’ve been practicing for weeks.”

Victoria sighed. (“I wasn’t asking about me,”) she mumbled.

The confidence returned to Hailey’s eyes. “Ha! Lovelynn and I are going to wow you with our new techniques!”

“Yeah… you sure will…”

The lights in the green room were too bright. The marble counter was too scratchy. The room was spinning. Wallace’s gaze and attention turned away from Hailey and Victoria and the room… and to his thoughts.

You’re going to fail this Contest because you lost control.

What would your parents think if they saw you?

You’re a failure to them. You're a failure to Nicole. You’re a failure to Juan. You’re a failure to Megalos. You’re a failure to everyone.

Calm down, Wallace. Calm down. Calm—


“Wallace?!”

He slammed the door to the bathroom. Too bright. Too bright. Too much. His legs were shaking, and his head was spinning.

Tears stung his eyes. He couldn't cry. He couldn't cry. Sootopolitans didn't cry, especially not the city's Gym Leader, guardian, poster boy...

Why can't you calm down?!?!

He couldn’t take it anymore. He couldn’t take it anymore. He couldn’t take it anymore.

Fuck you. Fuck you. FUCK YOU.

The torrent of thoughts stopped when Wallace plunged his fingers down his throat.

It all happened so quickly that he couldn’t even register what had just happened. Slowly, he began to process the sound of his choking echoing on the walls of the bathroom, the slimy feeling of spit and vomit on his fingers, and the burning, bitter sensation in his throat.

He also felt... number, calmer, only just a bit disgusting.

He reached his hand over to shut off the light. It was dark. It was quiet. He could breathe. He could open his eyes. Things were better now.

“Wallace? Is everything okay?”

He could process another sound: Hailey’s voice. He could stand up, stumble to the sink, wash out his mouth, and open the door.

“Come on, Victoria,” he said monotonously, glancing over Hailey's shoulder to avoid eye contact. Poor Victoria was so worried, so confused. He could make up a lie to tell her later.

“Wallace, are you feeling well?” Hailey asked.

“Of course I am.” His tone didn’t change. “I’m feeling wonderful.”
 
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I get bi with a little help from my friends
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  • #4
Sexual themes, almost sex, discussions of eating disorders, mentions of self harm, drug abuse, manic episode, use of LSD, body dysmorphia, vomiting, migraines, overstimulation, anxiety, fucked-up views on mental illness

“Are you sure you don’t mind that I never take off my clothes when we have sex?”

Wallace looked up at Lucy when he asked that question. He was sitting on the edge of her bed, and she was standing in front of him. She was dressed in black lingerie, while he was dressed in a long sleeved shirt and long sleeved pants. The dorm room was dark, but Wallace still felt… insecure, almost guilty.

He felt guilty that he couldn’t hold down his sinful urges, guilty that he had given into sex before marriage, guilty that he had given into sex with a man, guilty that he had several romantic and sexual partners. He had to keep his sins a secret. He had to keep his facade perfect.

Lucy smiled and strutted over to the bed. “Why would I care? Besides”—she slid a finger down the buttons of his shirt—“you look sexy in those clothes of yours. Do you take them off for Steven or Winona?”

Wallace's heart started racing even more, partially from lust and partially from anxiety.

“No.” Not even Steven and Winona—who were more than friends with benefits, unlike Lucy—were allowed to see Wallace’s body. He hated his body. Hated it. And what would Lucy or Steven or Winona say if they saw his body? What would they say about his body if he took off the makeup and clothes that hid his imperfections?

“Are you anorexic?” No, Wallace would respond, because he hated how thin he was, and he didn’t want to keep losing weight. Paradoxically, he didn’t want to gain weight either.

"All right then, are you bulimic?" Also a no; Wallace didn't binge before purging, unless eating even just a bit over his strict limits counted as binging, and even then he sometimes purged other times, like when he got stressed before Contests, or when he was having an emotional low, or when he was on the brink of a panic attack, or when he needed to tire himself out because his emotional high was too high for him to sleep.

"Do you have an eating disorder?" If he didn't have anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and if he didn't want to get thinner, he couldn't possibly have an eating disorder.

“Where did those bruises come from?” He hated those bruises too. They sometimes came from him accidentally falling, or intentionally slapping himself, or intentionally slamming his textbook on his arms just below the point of potentially breaking them.

“You look high.” He wasn’t high, Wallace would insist, just a little tired. Sure, he had tried marijuana and LSD, but that was for art, not for the high. Sure, he occasionally drank a little too much, but only on bad days. Sure, he took sedatives and stimulants, but only to regulate his emotions. He wasn’t high. He wasn’t an addict. He could stop if and when he wanted to—or as long as his emotions weren’t smothering him in exhausting sadness or distracting euphoria.

“Is everything okay?” Yes. Everything was okay. He didn’t have a problem. He didn’t have any problems. He couldn’t have any problems. He was Gym Leader Wallace. Guardian Wallace. Sootopolis Perfect Boy Wallace. He couldn’t let something as small as college or stress taint his perfect image. He was tired, though, and he did sometimes have to call in sick from school or work at the Gym because of a hangover or bad trip, and he could barely focus in class anymore, and he was losing more battles than usual, and he was a failure failure failure.

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

“You’re hideous.”

"You're a freak."

“You’re—“


“Wallace? You stuck in space or something?”

Wallace stood up and walked towards the door, avoiding Lucy’s gaze.

“I’m so sorry for cutting this hook up so short, Lucy, but I’m not feeling well.” Wallace was still riled up on hormones and still physically wanted sex, but his sexual thoughts were spinning around alongside creative urges and panicky feelings, and he didn't mentally want sex.

“Hey, it’s alright,” Lucy said softly. “I’ll manage just fine alone. Maybe some other time?”

Wallace nodded. His head was starting to hurt, and he had to rest it against the wall for a second.

”Do you need help walking home?” Lucy asked. “You don’t look too hot.”

“I appreciate the offer, but I’m fine.” He didn’t need help. He couldn’t need help.

As soon as Wallace shut the door, he began quickly walking down the hall. He was tired, but he also wasn't.

It was going to be another all nighter. God fucking damn it.

-

Wallace managed to deal with his sexual urges by jerking off at his dorm, but unlike other nights when he had these certain thoughts and feelings, he couldn’t get anything productive done. The “euphoria” was just too overwhelming. It wasn’t euphoria. He didn't even feel happy, just shitty in an over-energized way instead of an under-energized way.

After pacing around the dorm's living room for what seemed like forever, he opened the dresser drawer where Filbert kept his drugs. They were reserved for his parties only, but it's not like he would miss a few pills. The mystery of how Filbert got so many illegal drugs was one that bugged Wallace, but hey, rich people did weird and likely illegal things all the time.

"Gamó ton Drákou." No sedatives. In fairness, it would be improper etiquette to sleep at a party, and Filbert didn't know about Wallace's emotional problems. Obviously Filbert wouldn’t get drugs for Wallace’s emotional problems.

Actually, Wallace knew more about Filbert than Filbert knew about Wallace. Probably for the best; Filbert was a stereotypical rich boy frat bro, and Wallace was a disaster artist nerd who couldn't tolerate a single piece of lint on his clothes.

He combed through the drawer. There had to be something he could use for sleep or focus or something.

There were a few sheets of... LSD tabs? Yeah, LSD tabs, with colorful pictures of Psychic type Pokémon. Wallace had done LSD once, when he was doing Art History assignments with some... acquaintances, not friends. Wallace didn't have human friends; he had family, lovers, a mentor, coworkers, people who hated him, and Megalos.

But anyway, someone offered him some LSD "for inspiration". It was a trend with psychics and artists: for psychics, it was a way to test their skills, and for artists, it was a tool for inspiration.

And LSD was inspirational all right. It took the colors in his mind that appeared when he listened to words and music and put them in front of his eyes. Maybe he could use his frenzied energy and that hallucinatory energy to do something productive...

Well, Filbert was out for the night with a girl, and Wallace's Pokémon were asleep in their Pokéballs, so what did he have to lose?

-

The trip was bad, bad, bad, but the art that came out of it was good, and that was all that mattered.

Then the morning came like a tsunami to bring his emotional high tumbling down.

He felt too sick to eat breakfast, and by the time lunch rolled around, he was feeling downright miserable.

But he had to meet Steven and Winona at the bookstore café—he couldn’t miss a “friend” date, as they had to call it for publicity’s sake. That would make him a bad friend, a bad lover, a bad person overall. Winona and Steven didn’t deserve that. They deserved good things—a good friend, a good lover, a good person.

-

Unsurprisingly, Winona and Steven were in different sections. It was, as Steven put it, “parallel play but parallel shopping”: being in the same general area, doing their own things.

Winona was sitting on the floor of the “Art” section, reading a book about fashion inspired by Flying types—a very Winona book, but Wallace was also intrigued. What kinds of outfits and what ways of interpretation and why did he feel so dizzy why did his head hurt so—

He felt arms wrap around him, and he felt himself return to reality. Winona was hugging him, humming against his chest. She was almost a full head shorter than Wallace; she fit into Wallace’s hug like a lock and key.

“Hello, darling,” Wallace sighed. He realized too late that he sounded like shit.

“Tired?” Winona asked.

Good. Wallace’s makeup was hiding his pallor. He could pass this off as poor sleep for one night.

“Yeah.” Well, at least it was partially true that he was tired. Everything felt heavy and hazy. He just wanted to lay down on the floor with Winona hugging him. But… well, poor sleep had become a habit.

“Aw, aren't you two lovebirds sweet.”

That half-teasing voice came from Steven, who approached the two with arms ready to hug them. Steven’s hugs were firm as a Metagross’s arms, and Winona’s were gentle as an Altaria’s wings.

“Ready to fuck some shit up later?” Steven asked.

Wallace shook his head. Last time Steven said ‘fuck shit up’ before a protest, he punched his physics professor. Needless to say, Wallace didn’t want that happening again.

“Peaceful protest, Steven,” Winona said. “The fish will like that better.”

“And I’m a fish,” Wallace added.

-

Wallace, Winona, and Steven were in the bookstore café, discussing classes or something. Actually, Winona and Steven were doing most of the discussing. By now, Wallace’s head was spinning, and he was too fixated on how nauseous he was and how many spots of black and white he was seeing to contribute anything meaningful to the conversation.

“Wallace?” Steven asked. “You doing okay?”

Wallace could only nod. The light was too bright, his throat burned too much, his head hurt too much—

“Do you want me to get you anything?” Steven wrapped his arm around Wallace’s shoulders. While Wallace appreciated the gesture, it also further aggravated his condition. “I can ask the waiter for some ice water. Maybe you’re just hungry.”

Winona put a hand to Wallace’s forehead. “Wallace, you don’t look well. Do you want to go to the restroom?”

At this question, Wallace shook his head. He didn’t want to. He didn’t want to have to. He needed control.

“Alright,” Steven said, “just let us know when you need us.” Steven looked up at Winona. “So Winona, as I was saying…”

Wallace couldn’t focus on the conversation anymore. He was too worried he would throw up. He was terrified that he would throw up in public. He was terrified that he would lose the control he so desperately tried to cling onto. He was terrified that he would make a fool of himself.

Breathe, Wallace. Deep breath in, deep breath out.

You’re too weak to have control. You don’t have control.

You’re safe with Winona and Steven. You’re safe with Winona and Steven.

You have no control. You have no control. You have no—


He stood up and, with his hand over his mouth, briskly walked away from the table and towards the bathroom.

“Wallace?!” Steven shouted as he stood up.

-

Wallace knew he wouldn’t make it to one of the stalls in time, so he leaned over the sink just as he started to vomit.

No one else was in the bathroom. He would have counted himself lucky if his head wasn’t pounding so much that he couldn’t process anything around him. Even after throwing up whatever was left in his stomach, he still continued to choke up bile and, eventually, nothing. He kept retching, but he was too exhausted to keep standing.

“Wallace?! Is everything okay?! Speak to me, Wallace!”

Someone was holding him on the bathroom floor. Panting, Wallace slowly regained consciousness.

“Steven?” Wallace whispered feebly. He figured he had stopped retching right before passing out, but the violent nature of what had just happened left him exhausted. The whole bathroom was spinning.

Wallace leaned his head against Steven’s chest, his eyes closed. The light in the bathroom was too bright, too invasive. The floor and air were too cold, too harsh. He wanted Steven to hold him and protect him from the light, the floor, the air, the world. Steven knew how to deal with overwhelm. Steven knew how to deal with the world. Steven was perfect.

“You collapsed into my arms!” Steven gasped, his voice cracking ever so slightly. “You’re weak and pale as talc! What’s wrong? Do you need me to get help?”

“Don’t,” Wallace demanded weakly. “Whatever you do, don’t get help.”

“I’m worried, though. What’s wrong?”

Wallace couldn’t respond. Nothing could be wrong. Nothing could be wrong.

“Do you think it’s a migraine?” Steven asked.

“You’re the one who gets migraines, not me,” Wallace mumbled.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if you got one, seeing how you’ve been drowning yourself in your studies. And stress isn’t great for migraines. Trust me; I know.” Steven thought for a second. “Have you eaten anything today?”

“Don’t remember,” Wallace replied.

“‘Don’t remember’? Wallace, you haven’t been forgetting to eat, have you?”

Wallace was starting to feel nauseous again, so he didn’t try to respond. He felt Steven’s arm wrap around his shoulders again. Wallace didn’t try to stop him.

“Think you can stand up?” Steven asked.

“Sure.”

“‘Sure’ isn’t enough for this.”

Wallace sighed heavily. “Fine. Yes. Yes, I think I can stand up.”

“Wallace, I’m going to need to get the manager and janitor for this, and I need to make sure you’re safe when I do that.”

Poor manager. Poor janitor. Poor Steven.

And now you’re causing problems for the people around you? What the hell is your problem?

Wallace heard a ping, and then he saw a Claydol.

“Take care of him while I’m gone,” Steven said to Claydol as he left.

Wallace washed out the sink and his mouth in silence. He washed it out as best as he could; soap and water and all that. He washed his hands several times to wash away the uncleanliness, the impurity, the—

“Kid? Kid, I can take over from here, though… it looks like you’ve done a pretty good job yourself.”

An old man with a sympathetic smile was standing next to Wallace.

“You look like you need a good rest,” the old man said. “Come on, why don’t you let your friends take you back to your dorm to rest? And get some water, too.”

Wallace bowed deeply. “Thank you. Thank you.”

With a hung head, Wallace walked out of the bathroom and to Steven and Winona.

“Please let me go back to my dorm alone,” Wallace insisted. “Please.”

“Nonsense,” Steven replied as he wrapped his arm around Wallace. “It’s like the Orbeatles song: you get by with a little help from your friends.”

“Gonna try with a little help from your friends,” Winona added as she followed suit.

Wallace gave her a small smile. His headache was starting to ease up. “It’s ‘I get high with a little help from my friends’ first.”

“We’re not gonna get high,” Steven said. “We’re gonna get… bi.”

At that, Wallace laughed for the first time in months. “Steven, I love you.”

“Do you love me?” Winona teased.

“Of course I do. I love you both. So much.”

-

“Wallace? Aren’t you going to order anything?”

“I’m not particularly hungry.”

Winona cocked her head. “Why are you never hungry?”

“I am. It’s just a coincidence that I’m never hungry around you.” He leaned closer to Winona. “Because I’m hungry for you.”

The red lights of the Coveside Bar and Grill made Wallace feel especially… horny. Lustful. Sinful. It was like he was committing adultery. When Megalos had found out about Winona, when he found out she and Wallace were sleeping with each other, things… didn’t go very well. Winona was too poor, too unimportant to be the bride of Sootopolis’s poster child. Wallace still had bruises from the beating the day after that disastrous night.

Worst of all, now his family knew that he was no longer a virgin, that he was a sinner, that he was no better than his father, that—

No. He had to hold it together. He had to hold it together for Winona.

He gave her a peck on the lips. “I’m waiting to eat you out.”

Winona smiled when Wallace pulled away. “You’re funny, but you need to eat before we can fuck.”

Wallace sighed, then he looked up at the bartender. “I’ll have the udon noodles.”

He’d purge after the date… if he didn’t throw up before that happened.

Wallace gagged into his hand at the smell of grilled fish down the counter. Fuck, thinking about the fact that it was fish—

“Wallace, are you okay?”

“Yeah, yeah… just not the biggest fan of fish.” He looked over at the man with the fish platter, trying not to focus on the fish platter itself.

“Same with… poultry,” Winona said. “Poultry is evil.”

Wallace forced a smile, taking quiet, deep breaths.

No. Wallace wasn’t going to let nausea ruin his date. He often had to cancel dates because of, as he called it, lovesickness: nausea, vomiting, racing heart, dizziness. But he wouldn’t cancel this one. He couldn’t. It meant too much to them, to Winona.

So he forced food down his throat, even though it tasted like cardboard. He talked about birds with Winona, ignoring the pulsing pain in his head. He ignored the nauseating, overwhelming smells of fish and heat.

He loved Winona. He truly loved her. He had to make himself worthy of her love. He had to be perfect for her.

-

Wallace felt worse after dinner, but he pushed those feelings aside for Winona. He was going to make this the best date ever for her, with city walks and kisses and passionate lovemaking. He wanted to make Winona the happiest woman on Oceana. She deserved it. She deserved it after all of the shit her mother put her through. She deserved it as the greatest woman Wallace had ever met. She deserved it for being the first woman Wallace had dated that had shown him a gram of respect.

And besides, they were going to the Lilycove Museum. Wallace loved art museums! And he didn’t know when he would be able to go to an art museum after his date with Winona—Mayor Megalos surely didn’t like it. Wallace wasn’t going to let a migraine or stress or anything stop him from enjoying this date.

The street lamps on the walk to the Lilycove Museum were bright, too bright. Wallace felt too dizzy to walk, but he had to keep walking for Winona. She looked so happy—her happy face made Wallace’s heart race.

“Wallace, is everything okay?”

Winona was looking up at Wallace, her eyes soft with concern.

Wallace smiled as he wrapped his arm around her waist.

“I’m fine.” He wasn’t; his head was starting to ache again, and the nausea was creeping back up again. It wasn’t just anxiety now, probably a migraine. “I’m especially fine tonight; I get to be with you.”

Winona beamed a smile—a smile that made Wallace’s racing mind worse. “You’re too kind to me.”

“I’m not kind enough.”

“Oh stop it,” Winona teased. “You know that isn’t true.”

“I made you listen to an hour-long rambling about a single painting.”

“It had birds, so it was worth it.”

Wallace kissed the top of Winona’s head. He hoped the lavender smell of her hair would calm him down, but it just made his nausea worse. “Why else do you think I chose to ramble about that one?”

Winona shrugged. “Most people wouldn’t bother trying to engage with my special interests. You’re probably the first friend I ever had… first human one, at least.”

Wallace felt his grip on Winona and reality weaken. “Same to you…”

“Wallace?”

“I’m fine, darling.”

“You don’t sound—”

Wallace ran back some distance from Winona, grabbed the edge of a bike rack, and vomited.

He heard Winona run over to him, felt her hold back his hair. Her efforts were a bit too late: the tips of his hair were already stained.

The date had already been ruined.

“Migraine?” Winona whispered.

Wallace nodded. He had to thank the heavens that he wasn’t puking from drunkenness this time. That last time Winona had seen Wallace drunk, he was a bumbling, stumbling mess—probably. He didn’t remember much from that night. Alcohol and drugs messed with his memory.

But still, why were the heavens cursing him with migraines? Didn’t he throw up enough by his own accord? Was this some sick, twisted, divine punishment? Wasn't three nights in a row of no sleep enough punishment? Did he need to purge more?

When he finally started heaving up nothing, he realized that he now had vomit on his shoes, as well. He was even more of a mess than he thought.

He had even less control than he thought.

”You’ve been getting a lot more migraines than usual,” Winona said softly. “Is everything okay?”

Wallace let himself fall to his knees. Keeping his head hung and facing towards the railing, he sighed. ”My head still hurts, if that’s what you mean.”

”I mean in your day to day life. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating well? Are you keeping your stress levels low?”

”Sure I am."

"That doesn't sound like a very sure answer."

Wallace sighed and looked up. "Darling, I don't think I can muster the energy to sound more sure."

Winona gave a smile: partly sympathetic, partly a smug "I told you so."

"Fine. Fine." Wallace staggered back to his feet, holding onto the railing in case he passed out. "You win. I'm not fine, surprisingly. I feel like I'm dying, and worse yet, if someone sees me like this, I'll have to kill myself or face public humiliation."

Winona's smile fell. "Wallace, are—"

Wallace collapsed against Winona, who caught him before he could fall in the puddle of his own vomit. Something worse happened: Wallace threw up onto Winona's dress.

Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit.

Silence. Wallace didn't even want to look up at Winona. She was probably disgusted, ashamed, furious...

"Wallace—"

"I'm so sorry, Winona. I'm so, so sorry. You can do whatever you want to me: break up with me, shoot me, let Aurora peck me to death, expose my kinks to the press—"

Wallace looked up at Winona. She… She wasn’t disgusted, ashamed, or furious. She looked like she was worried.

Maybe she was just pretending to be worried. Maybe she was secretly disgusted, ashamed, furious—

"Wallace, Wallace, Wallace, deep breaths. It's okay. It's okay. You're not feeling well. A dress is replaceable; you're not."

Winona wrapped her arm around Wallace.

"Now come on. Let's get you back to the hotel. You need water and sleep, maybe a shower, too. If you need to throw up again, tell me. If this doesn’t get better—"

“It will get better.”

“—But if it doesn’t, we might have to take you to the doctor.”

No. No. No. He couldn’t go to the doctor. A doctor would be able to find out that he used drugs. A doctor would be able to find out that he cut himself. A doctor would be able to find out that he starved and purged. A doctor would be able to confirm that he was a freak.

Drug addicts and cutters were freaks. They were attention seekers and embarrassments and discharges. They got into car crashes and got into bar fights and assaulted their girlfriends. They were horrible, horrible people, and if anyone found out he did drugs and hurt himself, his life would be over.

"I'm sorry for ruining our date,” Wallace mumbled.

He looked back up at Winona. That soft smile of hers was back.

”Wallace, your health will always be infinitely more important than a date. Now come on. Let’s get you a nice bath, and then let’s get you comfy and cozy in bed.”

Wallace managed a small, dizzy smile. ”I would kiss you if I weren’t such a mess.”

-

The two went to one of Lilycove's cheaper love hotels, the kind with simple walls and floors in beiges and browns, the kind that only gave lovers a basket of condoms. At least it had a shower and other toiletries.

Poor Winona stayed by Wallace’s side in the bathroom, rubbing his back as he vomited up the first attempt to take medication. He was disgusting. He didn’t deserve such a wonderful woman.

“Winona,” Wallace groaned. “Water…”

“You’re still dry-heaving. I don’t want you to immediately cough it up, or worse, choke.”

Wallace retched into the toilet bowl again. “Everything hurts. I just want—” More retching cut him off. “I just want something to throw up so this will stop.”

“Hey.” Winona’s voice fell back into that soft, gentle tone that made Wallace feel safe and loved. “Deep breaths. Deep breaths. You’re going to be okay. This will pass. This will pass.”

And it did. After an hour or so, Wallace managed to hold down water, ibuprofen, and melatonin. Hopefully it wasn’t too late for the ibuprofen to work, but at the very least, the melatonin would help him sleep.

Wallace and Winona hadn't really prepared to sleep clothed, so all they had for sleepwear were their clothes for the next day: for Winona, the shirt and pants she wore under her flight suit, and for Wallace, a plain dress shirt, purple pants, and a short cape.

Winona didn't let Wallace use the cape as a blanket. Instead, she wrapped him up in a blanket and Aurora's fluffy wings and cuddled him, facing him and letting him rest his head in the crook of her neck. The pressure, the warmth, the comfort… Wallace was safe. Wallace was loved.

“Goodnight, darling,” Winona whispered before kissing Wallace on the cheek.

“Cuddle me,” Wallace mumbled, too out of it to say anymore.

Winona made a humming noise as she held Wallace closer.

“Of course, Wallace.”

Wallace smiled. He didn’t deserve such a wonderful woman. What did he do that made Winona fall in love with him and want to stay around with him? Assuming she even loved hi—

No. He wanted to have this one moment of happiness, of safety, of love.

He thought he could feel Winona getting out of bed and calling someone just as he started drifting off to sleep.
 
Last edited:
I'm so tired.
  • Thread starter
  • Staff
  • #5
Purging, mentions and depictions of self harm, discussions of drug abuse, suicidal ideation

“Wallace? Are you okay?”

Wallace slowly raised his head at the sound of his sister’s voice from the other side of the bathroom door. Of course he wasn’t okay; he had just purged dinner, and he didn’t know if he had the strength to stand up from where he lay on the bathroom floor.

“I… I don’t… I’m fine…”

“Can I open the door?”

“...Hold on.”

Grabbing the edge of the sink for support, Wallace staggered to his feet. He had to flush the toilet. He had to wash out his mouth. He had to be perfect again.

The water from the sink faucet stung like the time Wallace had gotten his Sealeo, Richard, to use Sheer Cold on him. It was heaven to his throat and hell to his skin. It still couldn't wake him up, so he turned it from freezing cold to burning hot. As steam started to rise, he stuck his hand under the water.

He had to bite back a shout as he forced himself to keep his hand there. He only pulled back right before he thought he would get a second degree burn.

Nicole opened the door as Wallace shut the faucet. There was shock on her face, along with hints of concern.

"Nicole, I didn't—"

“Oh Mikouri…”

The next thing he knew, Wallace felt Nicole wrapping her arms around him.

“Eíste kalá?”

He wasn’t okay, but even if Wallace wanted to respond, he couldn’t muster the energy to do so. The past few weeks had been rough; he seemed to constantly have some sort of ailment or illness. It was his early childhood all over again.

"Did something not agree with you?"

"Nothing's agreeing with me," Wallace mumbled.

Nicole slowly rocked Wallace and gently patted the back of his head. Damn it, his hair was a mess.

"Go lie down, Mikouri. I'll get you some medicine for your stomach."

“I don’t wanna be sick. I don’t wanna—”

“Shh… It’s okay. It’s okay.”

Nicole slowly guided Wallace to the bed and helped him lay down.

“Are you okay?” she asked. “Should I call a doctor?”

“Please don’t.”

“But Wallace—”

“Don’t.”

There was a bitter harshness in Wallace’s tone, and it stung his tongue even after the words came out. He had a bad habit of snapping at Nicole, and sometimes—a lot of times—it would turn into arguing. In Wallace’s current state, he would probably call her some awful things—a jerk, a bitch, just as much of a slut as their mother. Even thinking about the things he called her made his heart sink.

Nicole only sighed. “Wallace, I just want you to… I just want you to be okay.”

She stood up. Wallace couldn’t muster the energy to look up, but he heard the door open and shut.

Guilt weighed him down into the old mattress. Nicole was his older sister and his closest family member. Their parents were dead, and their grandparents weren’t too fond of them. All they had was each other.

None of those things made Wallace feel any better about essentially needing her like a sick child needed a parent. He was nineteen—legally an adult. Adults were self-sufficient, able to take care of themselves. Only children needed help from others when they were sick. Only children needed someone to give them medicine and reassurance.

Aside from that, Nicole had a child of her own. She didn't need to be burdened with deadweight that couldn't go a whole week without getting sick. She didn’t need some jerk who would irregularly snap at her at the smallest wrongdoings or questions. She didn’t need another thing to worry about on top of parenthood, dealing with the rest of the family, and working two jobs.

The weight was dragging him deeper into the waters of his mind.

Look at all the problems you’re causing. Look at all the dates you're ruining for Lucy and Steven and Winona. Look at the time and money and energy your sister is wasting on you. Look at all the worry and anger and misery you're causing. Look at how disgusting you are.

Things would be better off if you were dead.


-

He slept lightly but peacefully through the night and the next morning. When he woke up, his Milotic was there to greet him, hanging her head over his bed.

“Promise not to tell her?” Wallace mumbled.

“Pokémon keep secrets”. “Pokémon keep secrets”. Victoria was the only one who knew what Wallace was like behind the mask. She was the only one who knew about Wallace's scars and bruises. She was the only one who knew about his flaws and habits and sins. She promised not to tell anyone. She promised to bring these secrets to her grave.

It was nice that he could tell someone about the darker parts of his self, but it was also shameful that he had those darker parts in the first place.

“I’m sorry.” What good would sorry do? Wallace was living in a personal hell, and he had dragged Victoria into that personal hell. “Sorry” wouldn’t take her out of it. “Sorry” wouldn’t make up for all of the pain Wallace put Nicole through. "Sorry" wouldn't fix or do anything.

There was a soft knock at the door.

“Uncle Wall?”

Wallace turned his head towards the door. “Lisia?”

The door opened, and a little girl walked into the room. Well, maybe she wasn’t that little; she was eight, not too little anymore, but still not big enough to be not little. She was wearing a blue hand-me-down dress. Once it had been her Yiayiá Lucille's, then her mother's, then her uncle's, and now it was hers.

She hopped up into the bed, holding a drawing in her hand. Wallace sat up. His head hurt from doing so, but he cared more about Lisia than his stupid head.

“Mom wants to know if you’re feeling any better,” Lisia said. "She said I can visit you if you're doing better."

When Wallace was five, he came down with the flu. When he said he wasn’t fine after twenty four hours, he soon found himself in the ER—The Lilycove ER. Sootopolis City didn’t have a hospital at the time. It was just how his parents were, and it seemed that Nicole had inherited that same fear of prolonged illness.

“Tell her that I’m doing better. I should be able to go to classes tomorrow.” He wasn’t sure how true that was.

The lie worked. Lisia was smiling again. “Good! I made you a get well present!”

She held up the drawing in her hands. It was a drawing of a Milotic, an Altaria, and a Metang. Maybe Wallace was biased, but it looked far better than the average eight year old’s drawing. It was certainly far better than anything he had done as an eight year old.

“It’s Victoria, Aurora, and Metang!” Lisia explained. “They’re all playing together! Just like you and your friends! Someday, I’m going to be strong like them, and I’m going to be a dazzling, dazzling Coordinator like you!“

Dazzling. Lisia really liked that word. She said it whenever she could. She really was a smart kid—always learning new things. She was going to do great things one day.

Wallace wrapped his arms around Lisia, holding her in a tight embrace as he leaned against the headboard. Lisia hugged him back. Wallace could feel the happiness radiating from her, but not even that could lift his spirits then.

“Lisia, can you promise me something?” Wallace said, voice grave. “Can you promise to not do anything to hurt yourself or make yourself sick? Can you promise to take care of yourself?”

“Sure I can!”

Wallace looked over at Victoria, who was resting her head on the bed and purring as Lisia pet her. Wallace reached his hand over so he could scratch her under the head.

"Can you promise me something?" Lisia asked.

"Of course. What is it?"

"Can you promise to do Contests with me? Just like you did with Juan! I think you're the best Coordinator ever!"

Wallace forced the best smile he could muster. “Of course I can, Lisia.”

Lisia beamed another smile before jumping off the bed and walking over to the dresser, where Wallace’s school bag was.

“Can I draw with you—”

“LISIA!”

Lisia froze at Wallace’s shout. Shit, he could already see the tears beginning to form in her eyes.

Wallace swallowed. “There’s… there’s a surprise in there that I don’t want you to see yet. I’m… I’m sorry for yelling at you.”

It hurt to lie to Lisia, but he couldn’t let her know what was in there. His textbooks? Those were fine; sometimes he would even let Lisia look through. Condoms? Those were a symbol of Wallace’s sin, his lecherous desires. And Lisia was too young to know about those sorts of things. The stimulants and sedatives? Those were from Mayor Megalos, but Mayor Megalos wasn’t a drug dealer or anything. He was giving them so Wallace could be functional, normal. It was like a doctor prescribing medication, not like a dealer handing out LSD. And besides, drug dealing and drug use was illegal, and in Sootopolis City, both were punishable by up to ten years in prison.

But Lisia didn’t know anything about drugs. And she would go off and ask Nicole about them. And Megalos needed Wallace to keep them a secret. So if Lisia ran off and told on Wallace…

Duncan pushed the door open again. He looked up at Wallace and Lisia.

(“Are you two okay?”)

Cute little Spheal. He didn’t care for battles or Contests, but he loved helping people: cheering up crying babies, playing with old people, and quelling arguments. He was certainly more mature than Richard, who was prone to petty arguments with Wallace’s other Pokémon.

Wallace smiled at Lisia. “Why don’t we draw with Duncan?”

“Yay!” Lisia cheered, jumping up and clapping. Duncan also started clapping.

Wallace chuckled. “Why don’t you two go down to the kitchen? I’ll meet you there with my art supplies.”

Lisia nodded and skipped out of the room, Duncan rolling behind.

Wallace collapsed back in bed and stared up at the ceiling. What little happiness Lisia and Duncan had given him was draining away.

What would Lisia think if she found out her shining uncle on a shining pedestal was abusing drugs? What would she think if he died of an overdose or malnutrition? What would she think if he killed himself?

No. No. Even if Wallace did end up taking his own life, Lisia—no, nobody—could know it was a suicide. It would have to look like an accident. It would have to—

Victoria was staring at him. Shit, could she sense his negative thoughts?

Was he really contemplating suicide?

Eíste kalá? - Greek, "Are you okay?"
 
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WAKE UP, PUPPET BOY
  • Thread starter
  • Staff
  • #6
Panic attacks, discussions of xenophobia and queerphobia, body dysmorphia, mentions of purging and self harm, mentions of alcohol, drug abuse, suicidal ideation, emotional abuse, implied sexual abuse, religious themes

“When Kaióga first slumbered, he sent his child to us to watch over our daily lives. He came up from the foams of the early morning sea, coat shining like a blue pearl. The first ones to spot the child were not the nobles or the merchants, but the children of the fishermen…”

Wallace’s mind wandered away from the pages of To Chon, but he quickly snapped himself back. No. He needed to keep reading.

Deep in the depths of magma and sea, Gourádon and Kaióga slumbered. High up in space, Rekkoúza flew between the world of dreams and the world of reality. But were Sootopolis ever to face danger, someone would need to reawaken them.

When Spenser, Lorekeeper of Kaióga, eventually died, Wallace would be one of three people who could.

So he read To Chon— the main body of stories and parables—front to back. He listened to Spenser sing the Songs of Summoning over and over again in his head—they couldn’t be written down, only passed down from Lorekeeper to Lorekeeper by mouth. He had to cultivate himself into the perfect keeper of Sootopolis’s legacy.

But he still forgot large sections of To Chon when he tried to read the whole thing out in his head. His voice still cracked whenever he sang high notes he had been able to sing before. He still wasn’t the perfect Lorekeeper. He still—

“Wallace, mi chiquito, why do you look so worried?”

Juan was standing in the doorway of the bedroom—well, it was technically a guest bedroom in Juan’s estate, but it had essentially been Wallace’s bedroom since he started tutoring under Juan at the age of ten.

“I’m not worried,” Wallace lied, “just reading.”

“You don’t normally look this worried when reading.”

Wallace forced himself to smile. “Maybe what I’m reading is worrying.”

That little joke didn’t seem to convince Juan. He walked over to the bed and sat next to Wallace, a concerned look on his face.

“Wallace, Wallace, Wallace,” the older man sighed, “why are you reading things that worry you?”

Juan gently pulled down the book so he could look at the page Wallace was reading. “This is… the story of Manafí, isn’t it?”

“It is.” Hinodego may have been Juan’s fourth language, but he spoke it so fluently. He didn’t speak with a thick accent like Wallace did. He didn’t stutter like Wallace did. He didn’t speak so slowly like Wallace did.

Juan looked perfect, spoke perfect, acted perfect, thought per—

“Well,” Juan said, interrupting Wallace’s spiral of thoughts, “that’s a good story.” He smiled. He smiled perfectly. “I think you’ll enjoy it, Wallace.”

Wallace nodded before looking back down at the book—mostly to avert his gaze from Juan’s.

“Is something else bothering you?” Juan asked.

Sometimes Wallace wished Juan was like Spenser, in the sense that Spenser didn’t dote as much as Juan. Spenser and Wallace’s relationship was strictly professional, with no other complicated feelings.

But sometimes… sometimes it was nice that someone cared for Wallace. It felt nice to have someone like… like the vague memories of Dorian that Wallace could still cling onto.

“Just worried about a meeting with Megalos today,” Wallace half-lied. He did worry about those meetings—a lot—but there was just too much to be worried about. Juan would never understand.

“In that case, maybe I should go meet with him instead.”

Wallace chuckled and shook his head. “Master, I don’t think that’s—”

“I think it’s necessary.”

Wallace jumped at Juan’s sudden change in tone. Juan got angry, but he never got angry at Wallace. Wallace couldn’t make Juan mad Wa—

“Wallace, Wallace, Wallace.” Juan’s voice was much calmer now, and he was holding Wallace by the shoulders.

Somehow, that only made Wallace more anxious. More than anxious. Terrified.

“Off off off OFF!”

Wallace pushed Juan away, curling up on the bed. His heart pounded in his chest. All he could feel was fear. Fear like teeth from an invisible force. Fear fear fear fear fear.

“Wallace?” Juan shouted. “What’s wrong?!”

I don’t know. I don’t know.

“No… no touch,” Wallace gasped out. “No shout. No. No. No. No. No.”

“Do you… Do you want me to stay with you?” Juan asked, much softer this time.

Juan… Juan wouldn’t hurt Wallace. Whatever Wallace’s body was scared of, his mind could trust Juan to keep him safe from it.

“Stay. Stay. Please,” Wallace begged. He couldn’t cry. Sootopolitans didn’t cry. He didn’t let himself cry.

“Okay… I’ll be right here, chiquito. I’ll be right here…”

Wallace didn’t remember how long he lay there, but he did know that Juan was there for however long it was.

-

Wallace quietly shut the door to the bathroom; he didn’t want anyone in the hall noticing him.

He hated public bathrooms. They forced him into the “male” box—a box that made Wallace anxious for some god forsaken reason. They made taking drugs (medicine, it was medicine) almost impossible and purging disgraceful.

But it was getting harder and harder to focus in his classes. And his classes were important—he needed to learn the history of his region, he needed to learn how to speak in other languages, he needed to learn and get a degree and make his family and Megalos proud. And outside of school, he had to memorize all of the songs and stories of his ancestors, how to perform blessings for everything from child naming to death. His ancestors were probably ashamed of how little he could remember. And if he couldn’t remember, how could he awaken the gods in Sootopolis’s time of need? How could he save his people?

He pulled the bottle of caffeine pills out of his handbag and twisted the cap. He needed these pills in order to get through the day, but he needed more and more as time went on. Maybe he needed something different. Steven had amphetamines for ADHD, didn’t he? Maybe Wallace could ask for some. Or maybe he could steal—

What kind of twisted freak are you? Steven needs that medication, and you want to take it from him? Do you want him to die? What’s wrong with you? What—

The door opened.

Wallace didn’t want to look up. It was some guy coming to tell him to stop peeping at boys from under the stalls. It was some guy coming to accuse him of trying to make a glory hole. It was some guy coming to beat him up for fucking in the bathroom—

“Wallace? From Water Type Studies?”

It was… Gavin, from the Coordinating scene… Gosh, how long had it been since Wallace had done a Contest? Life had just gotten too busy, and Megalos would approve of Wallace giving up Contests to focus on more important matters.

Gavin was a good man, and a good looking man. Clear, tawny skin with no blemishes or scars like Wallace, dark brown hair that wasn’t messy like Wallace’s. A perfect, muscular body that was nothing like—

Fuck. Wallace remembered the bottle in his hands. Fuck. Caught in the act. Gavin also seemed to notice the bottle. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

“You know, taking a bunch of pills for weight loss does a lot more bad than good,” Gavin said. He didn’t… seem disgusted. He seemed… concerned?

But it wasn’t for weight loss. It was for control. It was for being able to function in society as the perfect form of Wallace. But in fairness to Gavin, Coordinators were notorious for extreme means of losing weight. Gavin had every right to be worried that Wallace would starve himself to death, because such a thing was pretty common.

But Wallace wouldn’t starve himself to death. He was trying to control his food intake and energy levels, not his weight. He was controlling himself, not his weight.

“I’m not taking them for weight loss,” Wallace insisted. “I have classes I need to get through.”

Gavin raised an eyebrow, but he walked past Wallace anyway. “Be careful with those things. They’re easier to abuse than coffee.”

As soon as Gavin went into one of the stalls, Wallace shoved the bottle in his bag and ran out of the bathroom.

-

Wallace paced around the locker room, staring at his reflection in the locker room mirror as he did so. The light overhead was too much, the buzz of the radiator was too much…

He felt like he was dying.

It was his first swim meet in... well, a while. Panic attacks and migraines kept him from his duties on the swim team, and now that he was back, now that he was goodness knows much thinner, what was once an enjoyable hobby had become a terrifying nightmare.

Most of the people on the Rustboro University swim team had far more muscular physiques than Wallace. Meanwhile, he was like a long twig. While he wasn’t into hyper-masculinity and was glad he leaned away from it, he hated how awkward he looked. He was a man. He wasn’t supposed to have bony looking arms and ribs sticking out. He tried hiding his body under long sleeved turtlenecks and dress pants. He knew he would have to change into his swim trunks soon (why did the swim uniform have to be swim trunks?), but he dreaded having to change. He dreaded having to show everyone his body: the fucked up shell of illness, injury, and failed expectations.

He was already five minutes late to the meet. No one on the swim team liked him for one reason or another: because he spoke with a thick Sootopolitan accent, because he didn’t stand a chance against any of them in a fist fight, because they suspected he liked men, because he was one of those rebellious hippies, because of whatever else they could use against him. He couldn't remember all the names he had been called, and he certainly didn't want to repeat them. He couldn’t remember how many times he had gotten beaten up. He didn’t even get adrenaline rushes anymore; he was just exhausted.

He leaned against the lockers. Well, at least he knew to go into the locker room once everyone was gone. It was empty, but it was still too much. He was going to keel over any second. Part of him wanted to purge again, but the other part of him knew there wasn't anything left to purge. He thought about cutting his legs again. He thought about slamming his head against the lockers. He thought about—

Bzzz! Bzzz!

His Pokénav was buzzing with two notifications:

Winona and I haven't seen you yet
You okay?
- Steven

Wallace took a deep breath, a small smile forming on his face.

I’ll be out in a few minutes.
- Wallace

For a moment, he could let himself relax. Steven and Winona would be out there to watch him and support him. With them nearby, he would be safe from harassment and abuse. He would be safe. He would be—

“Hey Wallace, can I get something out of my locker?”

Startled by the sudden presence of another person, Wallace jumped away from the lockers and whispered several quick “sorry”’s.

His heart started racing. Fuck, he had messed up. He has gotten in the way. He had fucked up he had fucked up he had fucked up.

The other guy gave Wallace a raised eyebrow, but said nothing before he left.

Wallace grasped for his bag. He needed to change. He needed to get out to the pool. He needed to win the swim meet. He needed to be perfect.

He fumbled with his pill bottles. He was too exhausted and unfocused and needed his caffeine pills, but he was also too anxious and jumpy and needed his alprazolam. Would they cancel each other out if he took them both, or would they both get him to a stable, functioning state?

It was a 50/50 chance. Wallace had nothing to lose.

-

“You had better win this Gym battle. The whole world is watching you.”

"Don’t wear that. You look like a stripper. People are going to think this city is a pornocracy.”

“You have a swim race today. People will be watching you. There might even be reporters. Don’t fail.”


Wallace was already failing Megalos’s order to not fail and not defy standards by wearing a full piece, long sleeved suit instead of the uniform. It hid his body, but it also made him stand out more.

Wallace ran into the natatorium. The rest of URC’s swim team was already there, along with Rootclaw Academy’s team.

Coach Alagona briskly stormed over to Wallace. He was somewhat shorter than Wallace despite being fifteen years older than him, and his messy, purple hair was held back with sunglasses. He had a slight tan from being in the sun often, and his face was red from anger.

“Where were you, Wallace? You missed warm ups, and you only have five minutes until the Individual Medley! And why aren’t you wearing your uniform?!”

“My apologies, Coach Alagona,” Wallace panted. “I did my laundry the other day, and I couldn’t find them.”

Alagona scowled, but he said, “Fine. Just get ready.”

Winona and Steven were sitting in the second row of bleachers just a few steps away from where Wallace was. He walked over to the two and waved.

Wallace sat down—or rather, collapsed—in between the two. “You two have anything interesting to talk about?”

“Are you doing okay?” Steven asked. “You look and sound exhausted.”

Wallace brushed off Steven’s concern with a forced laugh. “I ran all the way from here to my dorm and then back here. Of course I’m exhausted.”

“What are those bruises on your face?" Winona asked. She gasped as she saw the parts of Wallace’s arms uncovered by his suit. “And your arms?”

“I tripped.”

The sounds of people splashing in the people, talking, yelling... all of it felt empty in the seconds during which neither Wallace nor his companions spoke.

“Wallace,” Steven said gravely, “you’re not hurting yourself, are you?”

Shit.

“Of course not! What would possibly make you think that?!”

“Wallace, deep breaths.” Steven held Wallace’s hand. “We’re just worried about you. You’ve been pushing yourself a lot since becoming a Gym Leader and starting college. You’ve been drinking a lot, you haven’t really been taking care of yourself, you've been getting horrible migraines, you’ve been spending more and more time alone—”

“I’m fine.”

Wallace stood up—a bad idea, since a wave of dizziness almost immediately crashed over him and threatened to drag him to the floor—and walked over to the other swimmers. The 200 Metres Individual Medley was up next, anyway.

Wallace looked up at Winona and Steven. Before stepping onto the diving block, he forced himself to smile before giving them a thumbs up. He wished he could have given them a better apology.

In his head, Wallace went over the stroke order of the Individual Medley: Beautifly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle. Beautifly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle. Beautifly… backstroke… god, why did his head hurt so much? Why did he feel like he was going to puke?

“3… 2… 1… GO!”

The freezing cold waters shocked Wallace out of his half conscious state. He was too busy to dwell on how cold the water was. He had to win this race.

Before he knew it, Wallace reached the other end of the pool. The sudden switch from Beautifly to backstroke threw him off more than usual, and the backstroke itself felt more off than usual. Wallace felt himself losing focus…

...only for his head to hit the other end of the pool.

Even when the impact shocked him awake, Wallace was too dizzy to process his surroundings, save for the shouting of spectators, the splashing of water, and the fact that he seemed to be leaning against the edge of the pool. He soon realized how far behind the other racers he was. He couldn’t stop now, no matter how exhausted he was.

After giving his face a quick but hard slap, Wallace shot off the edge and swam faster than ever before.

What little focus remained was directed entirely towards catching up. Even when he reached the other end and spiraled into freestyle, he didn’t notice that he had caught up to the other swimmers, that he had surpassed them, that he had reached the other end, that he had won. It was only when the judge grabbed his arm and lifted it into the air did he realize people were cheering for him.

Everything was a blur, a blur of lights, flashes, cheers, and then screams.

-

He woke up on the pool deck. There were people staring down at him, including a medic. There were people talking or shouting. It was too much, especially when coupled with the haze still lingering in his mind. He thought he could see Steven and Winona, and he tried to reach for one of their hands. The flashes of light weren't helping his vision or state of consciousness.

“Is everything okay?” the medic asked.

“Sure I am... Sure I am...”

-

He was taken to the health office. Winona and Steven wanted to follow him in, but the medic kept them out, leaving Coach Alagona and Wallace alone in the room.

The fluorescent light made the baby blue walls and white, tiled floor even brighter. It was overwhelming, but at the same time, the room felt empty. Perhaps it was the silence. Perhaps it was Alagona’s stare: serious yet emotionless.

“Wallace,” he finally said, “at times, you are the greatest member of the swim team. You take first place. Your form is phenomenal. At your best, you guarantee that URC brings home gold.”

Alagona smiled, probably expecting Wallace to smile back. Wallace didn’t; he looked down at his feet. Making eye contact was only making him feel worse.

“At your worst,” Alagona sighed, “you're late to or even absent from meets and tournaments. You’re too tired to compete. You’re a gamble: Either the top of the charts or the bottom. As good as your best is…” Alagona sighed. “…I’m sorry Wallace, but I can’t risk it. Your skills are valuable, but not as valuable as your health. I’m going to need to ask that you take a break from the team and focus on yourself.”

Those words reached Wallace as “You’re a failure. You’re a disappointment. You don’t deserve to be here.” And then he heard Mayor Megalos’s voice: “You’ve failed your parents. You’ve failed Sootopolis City. You’ve failed me. I thought you were Sootopolis City’s pearl. You’re just a failure. You don't deserve to be alive."

“Wallace?”

“I’m sorry, Coach Alagona.”

Wallace stood up. Without making eye contact with Alagona, he opened the door and left.

Winona and Steven were waiting for him right outside. He had to resist the urge to yell at them to leave.

“Everything okay?” Steven asked.

“I need some time alone,” Wallace said softly.

“That doesn’t make it sound like—”

“I don’t ask you two such incessant questions about your goddamned scars,” Wallace snapped. “I don’t assume your injuries from wandering around caves are because you’re a cutter. If I was Winona, I wouldn’t assume I was an addict because I got drunk once. I’m not a cutter. I’m not an addict. I’m not a freak. I’m. Fine. Leave me alone.”

Silence. Shock. And then… and then regret.

Steven wasn’t the easiest person to read, but the way his eyes were so wide and his hands were shaking…

Wallace turned to Winona, who seemed just as shocked. No. No. No no no no no no this wasn’t supposed to happen. He wasn’t supposed to snap at his two lovers.

“Winona?” Steven gasped. “What does he mean about…”

Winona’s gaze fell to her feet, and she was nervously squeezing her hands. “I found him one night in his room. He was drunk and kept saying how he—”

No. No, why was Steven asking anything? Why was Winona talking about how fucked up Wallace was? Why were they betraying him like this?

Wallace stormed away from the two. He’d had enough.

“If you two want to speculate on my private life like the tabloids, go ahead. Just do it without me in the room.”

“Wallace!”

He ignored Winona’s plea and kept walking.

-

He only felt regret when he got back to his dorm, but it was… angry regret. He angry-regretted getting mad at Steven and Winona. A quiet, dull anger at himself.

He sat on the bed, hitting his head against the wall. He was stupid. He was fucking stupid.

Bzzz! Bzzz!

His Pokénav was buzzing on the other side of the bed.

They want to break up with you.

Reluctantly, Wallace picked up the Pokénav and checked his texts.

15 minutes ago - 20 new messages from: Steven

They want to break up with you.

Hi Wallace
Hope you’re doing okay
Winona told me about that night
We’re worried about you
I don’t want you to do anything to yourself
Wallace please say something
I’m so sorry
I love you Wallace
Winona loves you
You have a family
Your Pokémon love you
Wallace they wouldn’t be the same without you
None of us would
Shit don’t feel pressured to respond right away btw
O understand
*I
I understand
Just respond soon
Are you still there
Wallace?
- Steven
Wallace couldn’t muster the energy to respond.
 
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Sober/life is a prison/Shitfaced/it is a blessing
  • Thread starter
  • Staff
  • #7
Drugs and drug abuse, slut shaming, eating disorders and restrictive eating, self harm, purging, mentions of sexual harassment, implicit sexual abuse, Stockholm Syndrome, a very unhealthy relationship with very bad power dynamics at play, graphic depictions of physical and emotional abuse, strangulation, grooming, outdated views and language regarding mental illness

Special thanks to @Spiteful Murkrow for beta reading this chapter.

Mayor Megalos’s office was white. Stark white. White walls, white floors, white desk, white chair. It fit in with the white and blue architecture of Sootopolis City, even without any blue of its own. In other circumstances, it probably would have been what Wallace imagined what the chambers of Tziráchi’s angels looked like—ethereal yet homely. But in the present circumstances, it was less welcoming and more intimidating, like a pristine altar that couldn’t be damaged, dirtied, or touched. It all made Wallace feel like his presence in the room was a dirty stain on the clean room in and of itself.

Megalos was sitting up straight in his chair, hands clasped together on the desk as he stared at Wallace. Megalos was old enough to be Wallace's dad, but his graying brown hair and wrinkles made him look closer to being his grandfather. Sure, Wallace was taller, but speaking from both appearance and Wallace's own experience, the older and far more heavyset man was hardly some frail old codger. Even at his age, Megalos was big and muscular enough to overpower Wallace by hitting him, or pinning him against a wall, or holding him down on the desk and taking off his—

No. No. No. No. Fuck, those thoughts were too painful to remember. But they couldn’t be painful. Not for someone with his duties and responsibilities. He had to serve Megalos to save Sootopolis City. And besides, Wallace had to repay Megalos somehow. Megalos deserved compensation for helping Sootopolis City, for caring for Wallace.

“I have some matters to discuss with you regarding past and future events.”

Megalos’s voice was calm. Megalos’s voice was perfect. His voice could bring Wallace back to attention. So why did Wallace keep getting distracted by such painful memories when there were more important matters at hand?

Wallace nodded. His legs felt shaky, and his head was spinning. He wanted to sit down, but even if there was a chair for him to sit in, he knew that Megalos would look down on him for showing weakness if he didn’t keep standing. Weakness wouldn’t save Sootopolis City from ruin. Only perfection would.

So he stood in front of Megalos’s desk as perfectly as he could.

“I heard that you won this week’s swim relay… only to pass out and get kicked off the team. I’m disappointed, Wallace.”

Megalos's stone-like eyes barely blinked. Wallace couldn’t keep himself from staring into them; they were smooth, and their gaze was sharp enough to cut into his skin.

“I also heard you lost a Gym match,” Megalos added.

“I won the one after—”

“Don’t talk back to me,” Megalos snapped back. “Losses reflect poorly on you and the city. It’s a miracle that we got to keep the Gym after your father died. If it wasn’t for Juan, you wouldn’t be here.”

Wallace swallowed. “I’m sorry—”

Megalos’s brows furrowed sharply. “It’s too late for ‘sorry’, Wallace! Don’t you care for Sootopolis City? Don’t you care for yourself?!”

Wallace's gaze fell to the floor. “I’ll do better.”

“You’d better do better.”

Wallace nodded, knowing full well that it would do about as much as an “I’m sorry”.

“Tomorrow," Megalos continued as he relaxed back into his chair, "I will be hosting a dinner party at Juan’s estate. The wealthiest and most important of Sootopolitan, Hoennese, and larger Hinode society will be there.”

He tapped his fingers on his desk, narrowing his eyes. “I want you to attend, and I want you to take part in an exhibition match against Cerulean City’s Gym Leader.”

Wallace wasn’t stupid; by “want”, Megalos meant “do these things or I’ll make sure you regret it”. Even still, Cerulean City’s Gym Leader? Ren Mizutani was a controversial figure at best and accused of several crimes at worst: DUI’s, Pokémon neglect, maybe sexual harassment if Wallace was remembering right—his memory wasn’t always clear, and it only got worse and worse as the days went on.

Did Megalos really want to associate with her? Well, Megalos knew more than Wallace. He knew how to talk to people; Wallace didn’t. Megalos knew about politics; Wallace didn’t. Megalos knew about perfection; Wallace didn’t.

But Wallace wasn’t above morality. He wasn’t about to—

“Do you have a problem with that, Wallace?” Megalos asked.

“With all due respect, Sir, doesn’t Ren have a less-than-savoury reputation with her past relationships with younger men?”

Maybe Megalos would like Wallace’s suggestion. Maybe he would praise Wallace for being so attentive to perfection.

“It's a bunch of sensationalist drivel made up by the media.” Megalos retorted. Wallace noted Megalos’s voice was ever so slightly more… angry.

“They made up those rumors when they found out she was coming to Sootopolis. They want us to fail.”

Wait… that didn’t line up.

“But didn’t those rumors start at least a year ago?”

Wallace was only trying to help Megalos from making a mistake and being imperfect, just as Megalos did for Wallace. Maybe Megalos would praise Wallace for being so smart, for knowing so much about politics, for—

Those ‘maybes’ abruptly died in Wallace’s mind when Mayor Megalos grabbed Wallace's shirt collar and jerked him forward. Wallace stumbled onto the desk and looked up, panting tensely. Mayor Megalos's eyes were aglow with fury.

“Are you questioning my intelligence, young man?!” he hissed.

You shouldn’t have said anything.

“Mayor Megalos... please... I'm sorry for—Hhk!”

Mayor Megalos twisted his hand, choking Wallace in an iron grip that kept him from speaking. Adrenaline rushed into Wallace’s body, and he felt his heart begin to throb in his chest. Logically, he wasn’t surprised this was happening. Moments like this had happened before. They had been painful, but they had happened without Wallace dying. They only happened when he behaved very, very badly. He wouldn’t die this time.

…Right?

“You’re young, Wallace. Young and stupid,” Megalos growled. “You’re unstable and imperfect and wholly unprepared for the harsh world outside of this city’s walls. Outside of my protection.”

Megalos’s grip on Wallace’s collar tightened, and Wallace was certain he would pass out, at the very least.

“You don’t understand things like I do. I don’t want you misbehaving or disobeying me anymore. Do you understand?”

Yes. Yes I understand. Let me go let me go LET ME GO OR I’LL DIE.


Megalos let go of Wallace, who had to catch himself with his arm before his head crashed into the desk. Panting, Wallace had to steady his breath and consciousness for a few moments.

He felt around his neck for any marks left behind. He didn't want anyone thinking Nicole or a set-up or Winona or Steven or Megalos had choked him. Luckily, his scarf was in his bag; he could easily hide his neck. If word got out about any bruises, someone close to him would be accused of abuse. And if that person was Megalos… Wallace didn't want that. Sootopolis didn’t need that. He wasn't being abused by anyone. He was just being put in his place by Megalos.

…Well, now that he thought about it, he hadn’t spoken to Winona or Steven since… since their argument. He thought about responding to those text messages, but… Megalos wouldn’t like that. Megalos wanted Wallace to marry a woman of high status, not a woman of low class who stooped to premarital sex, especially not a man. And besides, Winona and Steven didn’t deserve someone so stupid, so unstable, so imperfect.

Megalos sat back down, his expression… ‘softening’ didn’t seem like the right word, but at the very least, there was no longer fury boiling in his eyes. “I need you to get your act together by tomorrow night.”

Wallace nodded as he tried to lift himself up, but Megalos snapped, “You aren’t dismissed yet.”

Fuck.

Megalos rested his hand under Wallace’s chin and traced circles on the younger man’s cheek with his thumb. Wallace tried to let himself relax in the steady motion, no matter how terrified his body was. Megalos cared for him. Megalos cared for him. Megalos cared for him.

“You have your… medicine, don’t you?” Megalos asked. His eyes were stern, stern and calm and perfect and all of the things Wallace wasn’t.

“C-caffeine pills, or-or alprazolam?” Wallace stuttered. Pitiful of him.

“Both. You need both of them to function. They’ll lock you up if you don’t take them.”

Wallace’s heart stopped. “Lock m-me up?”

“When my father died, my mother suffered from hysteria. Could barely function in society. They locked her up in an asylum, tied her up in a straitjacket, and she wasted away for the rest of her life.”

Megalos glanced to the side, expression solemn in a way Wallace had never seen before.

“They’re terrifying places full of psychotics, schizos, addicts, and some of the worst imaginable dregs of society. You don’t want to end up in a place like that, do you?”

That sounded… horrible. Wallace felt his stomach churn and felt acid clawing up his throat. He hadn’t eaten anything today yet, but just the thought of being in a place like that was making him feel ill.

“I… I don’t,” he replied. He didn’t want to be locked up. He didn’t want to be locked away from his family or Steven or Winona or his Pokémon or anyone. He didn’t want to be reduced to a gibbering, screaming waste of space.

“Do you think I’ll end up like that?” Wallace asked weakly.

Megalos turned back to Wallace, putting his thumb to Wallace’s mouth. “If you don’t listen to me, and if you don’t take your medicine, yes,” he answered. “Fortunately, those are choices, Wallace. Ones where the right ones are right in front of you.”

Megalos moved his face closer to Wallace’s. “I trust you’ll make the right choices.”

Wallace’s eyes darted towards the door. Megalos was quick to cut this notion short when he tapped Wallace’s lip once.

“If you want to leave now, that’s your choice, of course—” the sentence lingered in the air as if there was a “but” just waiting to be said out loud.

Wallace knew the routine. He swallowed down bile before he began unbuttoning his shirt. “I'll stay.”

-

The bathroom was down the hall. No one came to Megalos’s office around this hour, so it was safe to purge in the bathroom without fear of anyone walking in on him.

Everything hurt. Everything hurt. Wallace was too exhausted to lift his head from the toilet seat, too exhausted to stand up. Maybe it was the medicine. Maybe it was the… the…

He couldn’t purge again to make the thoughts go away; there was nothing in his stomach, not even bile. He just wanted to clean the thoughts away with water and soap and rubbing alcohol and whatever he needed to make the dirt on his soul go away, to make the guilt for feeling dirty go away.

“Clean yourself up,” Megalos had said after… after that, “and don’t tell anyone about our little secret. They wouldn’t understand. They wouldn’t understand you like I do.”

No one understood Wallace like Megalos. Megalos knew that Wallace wanted—needed to save Sootopolis, no matter the cost. And best of all, Megalos knew how Wallace could save Sootopolis. Megalos deserved something in return, even if it was…

His fucking PokéNav was buzzing.

With shaky hands and stiff fingers, Wallace took it out. Steven was texting:

Hey
Are you good
Haven’t heard from you in a while
Winona and I are worried
- Steven

Want ot bekauo
Canktldo thuihs anymmkpre
y9ou dseveruve besteter
- Wallace

He couldn’t be with Steven and Winona. He had to be with Megalos. He had to be with Sootopolis.

This duty was his birthright. Countless Sootopolitans, especially most of his cousins, would do anything to be Megalos’s protégé. His ancestors had given up so much—sometimes their lives—so Wallace could have this position and carry on Sootopolis City's legacy. He had to stand up to the waves that would try to bring it down, whether they were physical or cultural or social or political waves.

He had to be its shining, guiding star, and shining, guiding stars were perfect. The people were staring up at him, and the gods were staring down at him: Wallace Izumi Papadakis, Gym Leader of Sootopolis City, guardian of Sootopolis City, priest of Sootopolis City, Lorekeeper of Sootopolis City.

His outer shell had to be perfect. His inner self and desires and well being didn’t matter. They weren’t going to be seen by the city. They weren’t going to shape its destiny as its guardian in front of the whole world. He had to be perfect for Sootopolis City's past, present, and future, and that sometimes meant dealing with unpleasant things such as Megalos. But not even Megalos was unpleasant, because Wallace was lucky to be with Megalos. Wallace was lucky to be chosen by the only person who knew how to save Sootopolis.

So what if he had to use drugs to stay awake or fall asleep or stay sane? He never overdosed except when he was blackout drinking, and he wasn't an addict or dealer. So what if he had to discipline himself with starving and purging? It wasn’t like it was an eating disorder; it was more akin to an extended Nisteía, a routine of self-discipline and respect for what the gods had given the world. So what if he had to cut and hit himself? Just a bit of makeup and then he looked perfect again.

So what if Megalos yelled at him? So what if Megalos sometimes got physical with him? So what if Megalos all but encouraged old, rich socialites to harass Wallace? So what if Megalos sometimes… sometimes…

This was his duty. This was his duty.
 
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You earned this, new purpose
  • Thread starter
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  • #8
Drug abuse, panic attack, mentions of purging, arguing, mentions of abuse, body image issues, internalized queerphobia

Wallace could barely tie his necktie with his hands shaking so much.

He wasn’t really a “suit and tie” sort of person, but he had to look pristine, presentable, perfect for this dinner. Everyone would be watching him, and he couldn’t make a fool of Sootopolis City, Megalos, or himself. He had to look perfect in front of Ren, no matter how questionable her past was. He was a (former) Coordinator; he knew how to put on a show.

But… he didn’t look perfect. His nose was too broad, too flat, too different. His eyes made him look like the drug dealers they kicked out of Sootopolis City, glassy and bloodshot and unfocused. His skin was deathly pale, save for the spotting of red flush on his cheeks.

And that was just his face. His body was bony and awkward and covered in bruises and cuts and imperfections. He had next to no muscle, looking closer to an anorexic woman than a stable man. Hoenn already looked at Sootopolis as the backwaters of the region, and Wallace was doing nothing for its image like this.

At the very least, his white dress shirt and dark blue pants could hide his body, making him look tastefully skinny rather than gaunt and emaciated. Foundation would hide the circles under his eyes. Sure, makeup was too feminine, and Wallace couldn’t be feminine, but it couldn’t be so bad if it was making him look like a more presentable man.

He had barely been able to get himself out of bed by three in the afternoon, and even then he had been exhausted. Nicole had been concerned, but Wallace had chalked up his sleeping habits to studying for an upcoming test—a test in a class he was failing, as he forgot to tell her. He had caffeine pills back in his dorm room, but inhaling an Awakening would work just fine to keep him from collapsing from exhaustion, and he had a few appetite suppressants in his travel bag to stave off the hunger pangs. He wasn't hungry. He was just a little nervous.

But he still needed to straighten the creases and folds of his shirt. He still needed to arrive on time. Most of all, he still really, really needed to stop his spinning thoughts, his racing heart, his shaking hands. So many things were on his mind: college, the Gym, his grades, his duties, the stories and songs he couldn’t remember, Megalos, his appearance, too much too much too much.

He thought about purging his fears. He thought about loosening up by sneaking up some wine from the cabinet downstairs. He thought about—

“Uncle Wall?”

Lisia had opened the door to the guest bedroom. She was holding a big box of crayons—a box Wallace had given to her for her eighth birthday. It has been her favourite thing to carry around for months.

“Are you okay, Uncle Wall?” she asked, a small smile on her face.

Wallace took a deep breath in. As he exhaled, he forced a soft smile.

“Uh… Of course I am. I’m going to a party. Parties are… fun.”

Lisia smiled even wider, radiant as a rainbow.

“Do you wanna draw with me before the party?”

Wallace nodded. Maybe engaging in something he loved—art and his family—would help him calm down. Maybe it would be a better, easier alternative to self-induced vomiting or alcohol.

-

The crayons were scattered across the kitchen table, along with stacks of construction paper. Luzia picked up crayons five at a time, sometimes using all of them at once to scribble in the sky.

Nicole was boiling water over the stove as she watched the two. There were reports that tap water in Sootopolis City was contaminated, and Nicole wasn’t going to take any risks. Raphael was off at work in Lilycove City, which wasn’t too uncommon among Sootopolitan men. It’s not like there was much work within the city.

Thinking about all of the city’s issues weighed down Wallace’s heart. He had to be perfect to fix things. He had to be perfect so Lisia could have a better future. He was the city’s Gym Leader, the city’s protector. He had to save it. He had to save it by being perfect.

Speaking of Lisia, she was looking up at Wallace with sparkling, turquoise eyes and a big, big smile.

“I like crayons, Uncle Wall!”

Wallace forced a smile. “I do too.”

“I’m going to draw mommy and daddy and Vicky and Goldie and…” Lisia waved her crayon around like a wand, then pointed it across the table and towards Wallace. “...you!”

Wallace couldn’t help but laugh. He looked over at Joan, who was sitting next to him. The Swanna pointed up to the clock: 6:30. Megalos needed Wallace at Juan’s estate by seven. If he was late—

“Joan,” Lisia said, “I wanna draw you! Hold still.”

But… Lisia was so happy. Wallace didn’t want to ruin that by leaving.

Joan shook her head, but Wallace said, “Joan, didn’t you hear Lisia? Hold still.”

Joan rolled her eyes but did as Lisia said.

Eventually, Lisia finished the drawing. It was… wow, it was good. Even Joan was impressed, and Wallace had never impressed her with his drawings.

“Lisia, that's impressive,” Wallace gasped.

Lisia beamed a smile. “I want you to give it to your friend Megalos!”

…Oh.

Wallace took the drawing. After a second of hesitation and thought, he folded it and put it in his pocket.

"I'm sure he'll love it," Wallace lied through the most happy smile he could muster. Maybe Megalos would like it. Megalos had a family: a wife and two daughters. Maybe he would like a pretty piece of art from Wallace's own family. Maybe... Maybe for the first time, Megalos would smile at Wallace, say 'thank you', say he was proud of Wallace for everything he did. Maybe Megalos would finally express his love.

Megalos loved Wallace—why else did he trust him and care for him for so many years— but he… never really expressed it. Megalos punished Wallace with beatings, but he never rewarded Wallace with praise, with hugs, with anything.

“Why don’t you draw too?” Lisia asked.

Wallace snapped out of his thoughts. Well, maybe Megalos would also like some art from Wallace himself.

“I suppose I have time for a quick drawing…”

For just a brief moment, Wallace managed to keep his hand from shaking as he picked up a light pink crayon—coral pink, to be exact. He knew all of the Smeargle crayon colour names by heart.

Art won’t save Sootopolis. Art won’t save Sootopolis.

Lisia hummed to herself as she continued drawing pictures of Water and Ice type Pokémon.

She certainly takes after her mother. Wallace tried to push back Megalos’s voice… or was it his own?

Speaking of Lisia’s mother, Nicole would look over at Wallace and Lisia every so often, smiling and whispering about how cute they were. Lisia giggled at Nicole’s words. Wallace smiled for them. He was happy. He was happy. He was happy. He didn't even have to lie to himself anymore. He was happy. He was happy. He was—

Shit. He had made the heart shape of his Luvdisc drawing too sharp. Luckily, it was small enough that he could simply cross it out and try again. Maybe he could make the patch of pink into something later.

The phone rang. Nicole walked over to pick it up.

“Hello… Oh, hello there, Steven!”

Wallace's heart stopped. “Steven?”

“I’m sure everything is okay.” Nicole beamed a smile at Wallace before returning to the call. “Yeah, Wallace is with me…”

Wallace distracted himself from his returning fear by going back to drawing.

He tried again to draw a Luvdisc. Still not perfect. He tried again. Still not perfect. He tried again. And again. And again and again and again and—

Snap.

His hand froze in place as the crayon split in two. His hand stayed still for a few seconds. Then it started shaking.

He ripped the paper apart.

“Uncle Wall?”

Wallace stood up and stormed out of the kitchen. He could hear his sister calling for him, but he ignored her.

He slammed the door behind him and stomped down the stairs.

“Wallace—”

“I’M FINE!”

His breathing was ragged, and his hands were shaking as he clutched his unkempt hair. He let them fall to his side as he realized that he was standing at the bottom of the stairs, and Nicole was standing in the doorway, staring at him with terrified eyes. Well, at least he wasn’t a complete mess; he had put on his shoes for the party.

“What happened?” Nicole gasped. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong. Nothing’s wrong. I have that dinner to go to, and I have to leave now—”

“Wallace, you don’t have to go to it. If you want to stay and talk about whatever is going on at work or—”

“I don’t. I have to. Now."

Joan was standing next to Nicole. She shared Nicole’s concern, and she cocked her head in confusion.

“Come on, Joan,” Wallace ordered quietly. “We have to leave... I said we need to leave!"

"Wallace, what is going on?" Nicole pleaded.

Anger joined the fear in Wallace’s blood. What had Steven said about him? Joan still wasn’t coming. What had Winona said about him? What had everyone else said about him? What were they all saying behind his back? Were they tattling and saying he’s was a fucked-up freak?!

“Joan. Now.”

Joan hesitated for a moment. Eventually, she stepped past Nicole and walked over to Wallace. He climbed onto her, and with a flap of her wings, she flew off.

Wallace felt a sinking sense of guilt in his heart as Joan flew higher. He had snapped at Steven and Winona. He had snapped at Nicole. He had snapped at Joan.

"I'm sorry, Joan." He could apologize to Joan, but it was too late to apologize to Nicole. It was too late to apologize to Steven or Winona. It was too late to apologize to everyone.
 
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PLEASE CAN I BE PLEASE CAN I BE COLOURFUL AND FREE???
  • Thread starter
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  • #9
Dissociation, depersonalization, slut shaming, alcohol abuse, purging, eating disorders, panic attack, emotional and physical abuse, internalized slut shaming and queerphobia, purging mistaken for a suicide attempt, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and implicit sexual abuse

Sebastian, Juan's butler, opened the door to Juan’s estate. The warmth from inside flooded out into the cold February air, and it almost shocked Wallace unconscious.

“Wallace! Welcome… Welcome… Are you well?”

“Good evening, Sebastian.” There was a smile on Wallace’s face, and his posture was straight, but there was no emotion, no life in his voice.

"Are you sure—"

"I'm fine."

Wallace walked inside the estate. The entrance hall was grand and glorious: gold-cream walls and Ionic pillars reached for the fresco above, which depicted the Runekyō myth of Arousésou giving humanity the eighteen plates that they would use to paint their masterpieces. As a child apprenticing under Juan, Wallace would always ask questions about the mural: the story behind it, the painter who painted it, the techniques they used.

But Wallace didn’t even look up at the ceiling. He didn’t have time for such silly matters. That child was gone. Instead there was Wallace, finally perfect. Finally perfect. Finally perfect.

Wallace couldn’t feel anything, couldn’t process anything. The only thing on his mind was his mission: find Megalos, find Ren, be perfect, be perfect, be perfect.

He didn’t register his surroundings until he stopped in front of Megalos. Main hall. Bright white and gold light. Paintings of nautical life on the walls. A wall of tall mirrors. White tablecloths. String music. People. Lots of people. Tables with bottles of wine and liquor laid out. Megalos staring at him and not smiling.

“You’re five minutes late.”

“I’m sorry.” Wallace didn’t feel his smile fall. It was a miracle that he still had the energy to keep it up.

Megalos smiled, grabbed Wallace’s shoulders, turned him towards the mirror wall, smiled, smiled, smiled. Megalos finally smiled at Wallace.

“See? You look better when you smile.”

Wallace was finally perfect. Wallace was finally perfect for his family, for Megalos, for Sootopolis.

But all he could think was, What is that?

-

“Ren, I’d like to formally introduce you to Wallace Papadakis, Sootopolis City’s Gym Leader, and my protégé.”

Ren approached Wallace with a smile. A good thing. A very good thing. Black hair. Around her early 40s.

“He’s very mature-looking for his age—what did you say he was, nineteen? He looks better in the flesh than in the tabloids.”

She put a finger under Wallace’s chin, getting a view of his face and body. Wallace kept his smile up, but his stupid heart began racing with fear.

Megalos handed Wallace a glass. Red liquid. Wine.

Wallace didn’t need to be told what to do; he drank the whole glass, even though it tasted more bitter than the wine he was used to.

Was he even Wallace? He didn't feel connected to himself. He didn't feel connected to the reflection he had seen in the mirror. He didn’t feel connected to anything… well, except Megalos. With Megalos watching him, his body would react perfectly to whatever Ren did.

“He’s a very talented Water type trainer,” Megalos commented. “I believe he’s better than his own father was. When he behaves, he’s one of the city’s greatest assets. But when he’s… rebellious, he loses his intelligence, that charisma, and becomes a wretched whore. I trust you’ll keep him in line so he won’t destroy Sootopolis.”

…Keep him in line?

“My husband was a pretty successful tech developer on his time,” Ren said, frowning. “One of the first members of Silph Co. Died in the war, the poor thing. I know my way with men.”

“I’m sorry to hear,” Wallace heard himself say.

Ren smiled. “He’s so polite, too. I’m sure he’ll make a great husband. Am I bringing him home, or do you want me to move to Sootopolis?”

No. No. No. No. No. Wallace didn’t want to marry Ren. He didn’t want to marry her. He didn’t want to marry her. His body nodded its head, his body answered with everything Ren wanted to hear, but no no no no no no NO—

…Was this event all just a plot to set up the two?

The fragile pillars began to crumble, and everything fell into place.

Ren’s words started blending together. They made less and less sense. It was getting harder and harder to breathe.

Wallace’s legs started shaking. His heart pounded in his chest as thoughts ate away at his mind. He felt like he was going to pass out or throw up. Either thing happening would be imperfect. Terrible. Terrible terrible imperfect imperfect imperfect terrible imperfect imperfect imperfect imperfect.

Don't you dare leave. Don't you dare make an ass of yourself you stupid stupid—

“Excuse me one moment, Ms. Mizutani.”

-

No matter how hard he stabbed his finger down his throat, no matter how deep he stabbed, no matter how hard he tried, Wallace couldn’t bring up more than a thin string of mucus and bile.

He had to be perfect he had to be perfect HE HAD TO BE PERFECT OR HE WOULD DIE.

He stumbled back to his feet and collapsed against the wall. He felt worse. His stomach was sore from unproductive gagging. His throat ached from relentless attacks. He felt like he was dying. Was he really going to die such an undignified death?

He couldn’t die if he died he wouldn’t be able to save Sootopolis he would be imperfect imperfect IMPERFECT IMPERFECT.

Eyes. Eyes staring at him. Shadows of figures. Pointing. Laughing. What a freak, couldn’t even purge anymore. Stupid fool who could see but not process what he could see. Stupid slut. Stupid freak. STUPID STUPID STUPID.

Someone was banging on the door to the bathroom.

“Wallace!” Megalos shouted. “Don’t tell me you’re sick!”

“Don’t worry, I’m—”

As soon as Wallace’s hand opened the door, Megalos grabbed Wallace and dragged him by the necktie.

"I don't know why I chose you to be Sootopolis City's guardian and Gym Leader! Why can't you be like Juan? Why can't you be like your father? Why can't you be normal?"

With one last tug, Megalos threw Wallace into a small dining room and against a table.

Panting, Wallace shakily stood back up and looked over at Megalos. No one else was there.

Red room styled after Kalosian châteaux. Red rugs. Red drapes. Red furniture. Red. The colour of love. The colour of wine. The colour of blood. The colour of anger. The colour of a lot of things, like the things swirling through Wallace’s head. None of them were red things, though, only black and white and grey: exhaustion, fear, despair…

Lisia.

Lisia’s drawing.

Sorry wouldn’t save Wallace, but maybe…

"I wanted to give you something my niece made for you." With a smile, Wallace stood up and took Lisia's drawing out of his pocket. He held it out to Megalos, hoping he would take it, see it, admire it, smile at it, smile at Wallace.

Megalos didn’t even give it a second glance. He walked towards the door, saying "I'll go find Ren. You two can continue your conversation from earlier."

-

Alcohol. More alcohol. Wallace was one year under the drinking age. Maybe. He couldn't remember anymore.

Nothing was stopping him from drinking. Hell, if he wanted to, he could drink a whole bottle of the wine Megalos had brought in. No one was in the room Megalos had brought Wallace to. The doors were closed. No one else was there. Maybe Wallace would stop panicking inside. Maybe someone would slip something in his drink so he could be completely numbed or maybe even—

Someone wrapped an arm around his back. A woman. Clearly drunk.

Ren.

“Hey babe.”

Wallace couldn’t move. Couldn’t speak. Couldn’t move his smile. He didn’t want this. He didn’t want a woman over twice his age flirting with him. He didn't want to be touched so suggestively, not now, not with this woman. He wanted to be left alone.

He needed to let her touch him. He needed to let her touch him. His body wanted to run, but he couldn’t run. He couldn’t be a coward. He couldn’t be imperfect.

Ren creeped her arm lower, wrapping her leg and other arm around him. "Look at the lucky lady who gets to play with a sexy little boy, and no less than Sootopolis City's special boy. Maybe we could go to my hotel room to... get to know each other a bit better before the big day. Or we could do it here."

I don't want either. I don't want either.

Megalos entered the room. Wallace stared up at him, desperate for someone, anyone to save him.

"Come on, Wallace. I thought you were an entertainer. Aren't you going to entertain our guest? Aren’t you going to entertain your fiancée?”

No. No. No.

Megalos turned his back, left the room, and shut the door behind him.

No no no no no NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

Wallace was choking. His tie and collar felt too tight. He wanted to scream. He wanted to scream or cry or even just say something. But he couldn’t. He had no control over his body anymore. Wallace couldn’t move. Couldn’t speak. Couldn’t stop smiling. Couldn’t move. Couldn’t speak. Couldn’t stop smiling. Couldn’t move couldn’t speak DON’T STOP SMILING. He felt like a doll cursed with sentience and stillness, a doll Megalos had thrown away when he had gotten bored, a doll that anyone was free to play with however they wanted. DON’T STOP SMILING BE A GOOD DOLL. GOOD DOLLS HAVE PERFECT PAINTED SMILES AND DO AS THEIR OWNERS WANT. He wanted control again. He needed control again.

Maybe he deserved this. Maybe he deserved this for dressing the way he dressed, being pansexual and polyamorous, being a dirty slut. Maybe he deserved this for not being a good Gym Leader, for not being a good protector of Sootopolis City, for not being a good Lorekeeper, for not being perfect.

Maybe this was all Wallace was worth to the world. Maybe he was just a toy. Maybe he was just a puppet to be pulled around at other peoples’ needs or pleasure. Maybe he was just meant to be used. Maybe he had no real worth as a person. Maybe all of his worth came from others using him. Maybe he—

“GET OFF OF HIM!”

That shout was all that echoed in Wallace’s mind for a second. Or minute. Or hour. He didn’t remember. Then Juan was standing over him. A Kingdra guarded them—Ruisseau. That name came up in Wallace’s mind. Ren screaming as she was taken away. Juan yelling at Megalos. Megalos yelling at Juan. Yelling. Too much. Too much. Too much.

Somehow, Wallace got the freedom and energy to run.

"Wallace, wait!"

-

Wallace was in Juan’s bathroom. Too bright. Too big. Too elaborate. Too much. Too much. Too much. The freak in the mirror was just a stranger to him now. Nothing was real. No past. No future. No present. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

His smile was gone. His stillness was gone. He was shaking. Choking on air. Dying from his own thoughts. Only one thing assured him that he was still conscious and alive and sane: he was trying to open a bottle with hands that could barely hold it.

He needed to open it. He needed to open it. He needed to—

“WALLACE!”

Juan grabbed Wallace’s wrists. The bottle fell to the floor and shattered. The label was still intact: ‘ipecac syrup’.

Silence. Deathly silence. Wallace looked down at the bottle. He couldn’t look at Juan. Wallace hadn’t stopped shaking.

“I wasn’t trying to kill myself.” Even his voice was shaking. “I wasn’t trying to kill myself. I want to kill myself, but I don’t want to kill myself, and I wasn’t, wasn’t trying to kill myself.”

“What were you doing with ipecac syrup?” Juan paused. “You’re not making yourself sick to control your weight, are you?”

“It’s not about weight. It’s not about weight. It’s not about weight. I hate how I can’t swim or take off my clothes without seeing my ribs sticking out from under my skin. I hate how I can’t eat around other people without feeling like I’m going to die. I hate having to taste vomit everyday. I hate having to go to the dentist every week. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.”

Juan let go of Wallace’s wrists. Wallace almost fell over, but Juan grabbed him into a hug.
 
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Kuzurete yuku maeni
Delirium, aftermath of sexual assault, blood, internalized queerphobia, self-directed transphobic and homophobic slurs, and Wallace spilling all of his drug abuse, disordered eating, suicidal ideation, and mental health issues, along with his stomach contents

He was in bed. Juan’s bed. Maybe. He was starting to forget things.

He thought he could feel Juan loosening the grip the tie and collar had around his neck. He still couldn’t breathe. He thought he could hear Juan and Megalos arguing outside of the room. It was all echoey noise. He thought he could see Victoria. Joan also seemed to be there. She was… comforting Victoria? He thought he could hear a door open and close. Echoey noise. He thought he saw someone sit next to him.

“Wallace, can you sit up?”

Juan.

Wallace took a few seconds to muster the strength to shake his head. Juan lifted Wallace’s head up and propped him up against a pillow. There was a bowl of… soup, probably soup on the nightstand.

Wallace was too ashamed to look at Juan.

“Wallace, how are you doing?”

Wallace didn’t, couldn’t respond. If he did, he would start crying, and Sootopolitans didn’t cry. Wallace had been imperfect out there, and now Megalos, Juan, everyone was disappointed in him.

After a moment of silence, Juan asked, “Do you need me to get anything else for you?”

“I’m sorry for not letting her—”

“Wallace, Wallace, Wallace, you didn’t do anything wrong. Do you understand? You didn’t do anything wrong.” Softness. Unwarranted softness. Wallace didn’t deserve it for making a fool of Sootopolis.

“But I never said no. I never said no. I never said—”

“Did you say yes?”

What was that supposed to mean? Why did that matter? “I couldn’t say anything.”

“Wallace, if you did not give your consent, then it’s not your fault. It’s Ren’s fault. Do you understand that?”

Wallace didn’t understand. He wished he wasn’t too stupid to understand.

“We’ll get through this,” Juan said after a long silence. “We’ll figure this out, and I’ll help you—”

“Stop.”

“But Wa—”

“I wasn’t a perfect host!” Wallace shouted, raspy claws cutting into his throat. “I wasn’t a perfect Gym Leader! I wasn’t a perfect protector! I wasn't a perfect anything… ever. I’ve never been perfect. I’m a tranny faggot freak. I don’t deserve to replace you in the Gym. I mutilate myself and do a fuckton of drugs like some Spinda’d freak and starve myself like some attention whore and—”

His breathing hitched as he sat upright. “I’m a slut. I’m a homo. I’m a freak. I’m a freak. I’m a freak. I don’t deserve to protect Sootopolis City. I don’t deserve to be alive.”

Silence save his breath. Silence that let Wallace—in his half conscious, feverishly delirious state—realize what he had just done. His throat was burning. His eyes were stinging. His heart was either beating too fast or not beating at all.

“Juan, I’m not… I didn’t…”

“Wallace, Steven and Winona called me and Nicole about your drinking and potential self injuring behaviour, but… how… how long have you been drinking and starving yourself?”

Wallace didn’t want to look at Juan. He already knew that his mentor was ashamed. He knew he was disgusted. He knew he was… crying? Crying from shame? Why were there tears falling onto the bed? Were those Wallace’s tears, or Juan’s? Juan couldn’t cry. Sootopolitans didn’t cry.

“Starving started sixteen,” Wallace finally responded. “Purging eighteen. First binge drink maybe three months later. LSD and marijuana one week after that. Started cutting and hitting somewhere sometime. Don’t remember when Megalos started prescribing the drugs.”

“Prescribing drugs?” Juan gasped, barely a whisper.

“I need to be perfect. I need to be perfect. I need to be…”

Hands on his sleeve. Unbuttoning the cuff. Making the tight shackle a bit looser. Juan staring at bruises and cuts. Juan staring at the cuts on Wallace’s knuckles. Juan staring at Wallace’s neck. The bruises on Wallace’s neck.

No. No. No no no no no no no no NO NO NO NO NO—

He felt Juan hug him, and fear took over. Fear—No. Juan would never hurt Wallace. Juan would never hurt Wallace. His touch was safe. His touch was safe. His touch was safe.

“Wallace, I care about you. There are so many people who care about you. To see you like this, to see you suffering so much… I’ll never fully understand your pain. I’ll never feel the true weight and toll of it, but I will do everything in my power to try to bring you some relief from it. I’ll do everything in my power to help you out of this darkness. And you're not a failure. You're not a failure. You're not a failure.”

Juan let go of Wallace and smiled.

"I'm sorry for breaking the bottle."

Juan’s expression softened. "In times before you were born, ipecac syrup was used to make people vomit after swallowing poison, but then people realized that self induced vomiting is far less effective than other methods of poison treatment, and that, in fact, it does more harm than good. I should have gotten rid of that bottle years ago.”

“But I took your medicine…”

Juan took the bowl of soup. “That doesn’t matter right now. What matters is that you need to eat. Nicole said you didn’t even eat breakfast today.”

The thought of food made Wallace’s stomach turn. “But I—”

“I know you aren’t feeling your best, but I promise that eating something will make you feel better.”

After some hesitation, Wallace accepted a spoonful of the soup. His throat immediately regretted it, and soon after his stomach did too.

“No more,” Wallace mumbled as Juan tried to coax another spoonful in his mouth.

Juan’s smile fell. “Wallace, I think we need to take you to the doctor. I’ll call your sister and—“

“Juan. Please. Don't.”

“Wallace, your sister loves you, and she’ll help you through this. We all will.”

“I don’t need help. I need to go back to the party.”

“You’re in no condition to be—”

“I’ll die if I can’t be perfect!”

It was all too much. Too much. Too much. Wallace hid his face in his hand. He couldn’t cry. Sootopolitans didn’t cry. Sootopolitans didn’t cry. Sootopolitans didn’t cry. Wallace didn’t cry.

He sobbed.

His sobs were quiet. Shaky breaths. Hot tears falling on his lap. Heart heavy and hot with shame. But it felt good to finally, finally cry. He felt so much lighter, so much freer.

He buried his face in Juan’s coat, and Juan wrapped his arms around him—tightly, in a comforting way. Wallace felt safe. Care for. Loved.

His sobs became coughs. Choking, it seemed.

Wallace pushed Juan away and vomited. He tried to cover his mouth, but that only coated his hand in wine, undigested broth, bile, and…

…blood.
 
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spiraling down thy majesty I beg of thee have mercy on me I was just a boy you see I plead of thee have sympathy for me
Delirium, hospitals, needles, IVs, dissociation, depersonalization, suicidal ideation, mentions of drug abuse and eating disorders, vomiting

Silence. Silence save his racing heart. Silence save the expanse of the ocean.

Juan came back. Other people too. Blurry in the thick water.

Questions. Questions he couldn’t answer. Maybe he did. He couldn’t understand his own response. He was taken from the bed and put in another one. It moved.

Gold light. Coral pink. Gold. Light yellow.

Black. Darkness. The depths of the ocean.

Red. Red. Red. Blue. Red. Blue. Red blue red blue red blue red blue rebureburebureburebureburebubububububu. Talking. Shouting. Questions. Faces.

White.

People surrounding him.

Stinging on his arm.

Screaming.

Sitting up. Bitter, slimy liquid burning his throat. Blood. Someone holding a bag under his mouth. More liquid. More blood. Someone putting something on his mouth.

Eyes. Hands. Fingers. Watching. Pointing.

Fading.

Drowning.

Dying.

White.

Blinding white light.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

The white light turned into white squares. There was a humming or buzzing sound. There were also those beeps. Those persistent beeps.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Nicole was sitting in a chair next to his bedside. She hugged Wallace. He could hear her softly sobbing.

"Mikouri... Chília syngnómi..."

Wallace didn't speak. He didn't hug his sister back. He just stared into nothing. A heaviness overtook him. He didn’t want to be touched. But Nicole was safe. Nicole was safe.

He saw a nurse standing near the door.

"Nicole," she said. She made a beckoning gesture with her hand. Wallace was left alone as the two woman talked about something:

"Traumatic... temporary aphasia... a while to..."

Wallace sat up. He needed water. He tried to stand up. But then he saw the IVs on his arm.

Blinding white light.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

There was no one in the room when Wallace woke up again.

He tried standing up again. He was careful not to look at his arm. He grabbed the IV drip stand and shifted his weight from the bed to his feet.

He almost fell over when he did.

He leaned on the bed for support and slowly began walking. He stopped using the bed as a crutch when he opened the door.

The wall became his companion. He aimlessly walked down the hall. He found the restroom.

He needed water.

There was a yucky smell. Mildew. The lights were bright. His throat tasted like death. He grabbed the edge of one of the sinks. He was breathing heavily. He tried to reach a hand to turn on the sink. His eyes caught a glimpse of the mirror above it.

A turquoise-haired shell of a person. Sunken, bloodshot eyes. Pasty, bruised skin stretched over nothing but bones.

What is that thing?

Blinding white light.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Wallace was starting to think he was trapped in purgatory, maybe even hell. At least he woke up feeling less like… he was dead. Maybe he wasn’t dead.

Damn it.

The nurse was there with a Gardevoir, and Wallace seemed to be sitting against the bed, not laying down.

“Wallace, I understand the need to be independent, but if you need to use the bathroom, you have to tell me. I don’t want you hurting yourself.” She handed Wallace a notepad and pen. “If you can’t speak yet, you can use this.”

Wallace stared at the blue lines printed onto the yellow paper. After some hesitation, he began writing:

I want to see Juan.

-

Juan came into the room a few minutes later. After a short, quiet exchange with the nurse, he walked over to the bed and sat in the chair next to it.

His eyes were red and wet, but he smiled after a few seconds.

“How are you doing, my friend?”

Wallace stared at Juan. For almost a minute, the only sound in the room was the buzzing and the beeping. Wallace wanted to strangle the stupid beeping machine. Wallace wanted to strangle himself. Why was he here? Why had Steven and Winona snitched? Why hadn’t he said no to Ren? Why hadn’t he just listened to Megalos?

"Wallace—“

“Why didn’t you let me die?”

Juan froze at Wallace's whispered question. He shook his head, tears returning to his eyes.

“Wallace… why would you say—”

“Why did you have to save me?!” Wallace’s voice was raspy, and it hurt to speak, but that didn’t stop him from shouting and sitting up. “You could have let me be put out of my misery! You could have let someone replace me, someone who’s actually fit to be guardian and Lorekeeper and Gym Leader and whatever else I need to be!”

“Wallace—”

"I DON'T DESERVE THE RIGHT TO LIVE ANYMORE! I LOST THAT RIGHT A LONG TIME AGO! I DON'T HAVE ANY WORTH OR VALUE THAT GIVES ME THE RIGHT TO... to... to..."

Wallace’s face fell into his hands as he started sobbing. Juan reached his arms out to hug him, but Wallace weakly tried to push him away.

“Wallace, every human and Pokémon is born with equal, intrinsic value. No one and nothing can take that value away. No matter what. Do you understand that?"

"No..."

"Wallace, when you were born, did the doctors tell your parents 'you have created a child with no worth'?"

"...No..."

"Do you think that worth has faded as you've grown older?"

"Yes."

"What makes you think that?"

"I'm not a strong enough trainer," Wallace gasped in between sobs. "I'm a failure to Megalos and Sootopolis City, I'm a drug user, I'm an alcoholic, a purger, an anorexic—"

"But you're also a wonderful partner, if Steven and Winona's word is to go by. And I believe it is. And do you really think you have no worth to your sister, your brother in law, your niece, your Pokémon, or me?"

Wallace looked up at Juan. "I mean something to you?"

Juan chuckled a little. "Of course you do, Wallace. Why would you ever think otherwise?"

"I'm not a good Gym Leader... and I'm not good enough for Megalos."

"Am I Megalos?"

"Well... no."

Juan smiled. "That's my so—boy. That’s my boy.”
 
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Hello. How are you, my heavy-hearted friend?
Overstimulation, panic attacks, arguments, past death by suicide, bigotry, dysfunctional family, suicidal ideation, overstimulation, discussions of sexual assault, discussions of emotional and physical abuse, discussions of eating disorders and drug abuse

"Steven, Juan just called. Wallace is in the hospital. Something... Something happened."

"Has Wallace ever done drugs?"

"Has Wallace ever shown depressive or anxious symptoms?"


"Has Wallace ever expressed thoughts of suicide?"

“Sir?”

Steven jumped. The receptionist was staring at him, so he forced the memories to the back of his head and offered her an apologetic smile.

“I’m here to see Wallace Papadakis.”

Steven stood even straighter as he stared at the receptionist, adjusting the box in his arms.

The receptionist nodded at Steven’s request. She then reached for the telephone, her brown, curly ponytail bouncing with every movement. It was satisfying, almost soothing, to watch them. Steven didn't want to look like a creep for staring at someone, but he needed something to calm him down, and stimming wasn't an option unless he wanted to draw confused glances towards him. He was already risking it by being a Champion visiting someone in a hospital. He didn't need anyone knowing that the Champion had problems.

The last 48 hours had been a nightmare of shock and fear and anger and panic. You could have lost him. His Pokémon and father couldn't even touch him, because everything was so overstimulating. You could have lost him. You could have lost him. You could have lost him. Too many thoughts and fears were running through his head. You could have lost him. You could have lost him. YOU COULD HAVE LOST HIM LIKE YOU LOST HER.

Things were getting better, at least a little bit. Wallace was stable enough to have visitors. He was getting better. He was getting help.

But there were still so many uncertainties, so many things that were getting worse. The sexual assault was all over the regional and even national news. There was harassment coming from all corners of Sootopolis and Cerulean City for “trying to tarnish Ren’s reputation”. Wallace had kept so many secrets for so long. Steven had… almost been too late in intervening.

The bright fluorescent lights above were making the clicking of heels on linoleum, the squeaking of wheels rolling, the opening and closing of doors—

“Your name?” the receptionist asked.

“Ah!” Steven blinked a few times to ground himself back in reality. “Uh… Steven Stone.”

The receptionist nodded and turned back to the phone. “It’s Steven Stone…Mm-hm. I’ll tell him.” She put down the phone and looked up at Steven, smiling. “You can visit him." She handed him a clipboard. "Just fill out these forms and I'll fill out your ID tag.”

-

The hospital room was just a bit dimmer than the halls outside. Good.

Wallace must have been wearing makeup or something for the past few years, because when Steven entered his room, he looked… Well, from the way Wallace was slouching as he sat on the edge of the sagging bed, and from the way he stared at Steven with sunken, glassy eyes, he looked like he needed first a good meal, second a hug, and third a long nap. Maybe a shower in between; his hair was a mess, and he stank of alcohol and blood.

“Hey, Wallace.” Steven placed his box on a table against the wall. God, was this even Wallace? Was this skeletal figure the same as that beautiful, intelligent man Steven had fallen in love with?

…Fuck, that was mean. And Wallace was still staring at Steven. Still frowning.

“Um… Do you want a hug?” Steven asked. Perhaps that was too… sudden for him to ask, but what else was Steven supposed to say, “Hey love, I heard you almost got raped by the Cerulean City Gym Leader and almost died of malnutrition, sorry to hear” or some other hollow or potentially triggering shit?

Wallace collapsed onto the bed, though he nodded. Steven walked closer to the bed. He looked at the Chansey by Wallace’s bedside, who nodded to him, and then back at Wallace.

“Are you sure I can touch you?” Steven had always been one to need to give and receive explicit, unambiguous consent from Wallace or any of his romantic partners, but that was especially important now. This wasn’t just a matter of making sure no body language was mistaken; Wallace needed safety more than anything now.

“I don’t know if I want to punch you or hug you,” Wallace mumbled.

“Punch me?” Steven cocked his head.

Wallace sat up, brows furrowed with anger as he stared at Steven. “You told my sister and Juan, didn’t you? I was in the kitchen when you called. I heard her talking to you... WHY DID YOU TELL THEM?!”

“Wallace, Wallace, please—”

“I HATE IT HERE!” Wallace shrieked. “I HATE IT HERE! BUT WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO NOW! THE WHOLE WORLD KNOWS THAT I’M A FREAK! AFTER I LEAVE THIS SHIT HOLE, I HAVE TO FACE THE WORLD AND ALL OF THE PEOPLE WHO HATE ME!”

Wallace panted heavily, squeezing his hands and swaying like he was about to keel over. “WHY DIDN’T YOU SHOOT ME OR SOMETHING?!”

“I’m not going to shoot you!” Steven yelled with jabs of a pointed finger. “And you’re a stupid, fucking idiot for thinking I would ever shoot you!”

“ÁI STO DIÁOLO, NA!” Wallace shot out two spread out palms stacked on each other and faced them at Steven.

“WELL FUCK YOU TOO!”

Steven punched the wall before falling to the ground. Pain rang through his hand and up his arm. His breathing was heavy, shaky. The anger in him began to melt away, and all that was left was… fear, and suffocating sadness.

“I can’t let you die, Wallace. I can’t… I can’t… I can’t…”

Wallace stood up with shaky legs that couldn’t even hold up his emaciated body. He collapsed next to Steven and wrapped his arms around him. Soon, the two were crying in each other’s arms.

“I’m sorry…” Wallace hiccuped.

“I can’t lose you Wallace… I can’t lose you like I lost my mom…”

“I’m a freak, Steven.”

“No you’re not. No you’re not.” Steven rested his head on Wallace, who was starting to curl up against him. “I’ve been there with the cutting and thoughts about ending it all. And I don’t know if you’ll believe me now, because I sure as hell didn’t believe it myself when I first heard it, but it gets—” Hollow advice. How did Steven know if things would get better? What if Ren got acquitted? What if Megalos faced nothing for what he did to Wallace?

“Death is permanent, Wallace. Suicide is permanent. If you ever did anything to yourself—”

"I want to go home."

Steven swallowed back the pain in his throat. There was so much despair in Wallace’s voice.

Steven buried his nose in Wallace’s unruly hair, smell be damned. "Shhh... I know... I know... It's going to be okay..."

He drew little circles on Wallace’s shoulder with his thumb. This was Wallace. This was the Wallace that Steven loved, no matter how frail he looked now. And right now, Wallace needed Steven’s support more than ever.

Steven felt something bump against him. The Chansey was holding out an egg-shaped rock. Steven smiled and took it, wincing as pain shot through his hand.

The Chansey took his hand in hers. She closed her eyes, and her hands began to glow pink. A warm, calming energy radiated onto Steven’s hand, and when she pulled away, the scars on Steven’s knuckles had gone from red to almost white.

“Thank you,” Steven said.

The Chansey walked over to the wall, where Steven had punched a hole into the drywall.

“Shit,” Steven whispered, guilt weighing down his heart. “Sorry about that. If there’s a way I can pay for repairs or—“

(“Mr. Stone, that won’t be—“)

Steven took out his wallet and held out ten thousand Pokédollars to the Chansey. “Please, ma’am.”

He shoved the money in the Chansey’s hands and stood up. Some of the bills fell to the floor, but Steven didn’t care.

He shut the door behind him and quickly walked down the hall. He was mad at everyone and everything in the whole fucking universe. He couldn’t even see where he was going. All he could see was rage. Pure, blinding rage.

He blinked, and he was outside of the medical centre. He stared at the vast, suffocating world. He pressed his hands against his face. And he screamed.

-

The phone call came, and the world went silent.

And then Winona’s mother was by her side. Mom hugged Winona. She hadn’t done that in years. Mom’s embrace was soft and gentle, like a bed of moss in the forest. Through sobs, Winona spilled everything Juan had told her. And for once, Rina listened.

“Shh… It’s okay, Nagi-chan. It’s okay. It’s okay…”

Winona felt safe. Winona felt safe. Winona felt safe.

Mom cupped Winona’s face in her hands. “That’s what those kinds of people are like,” Mom whispered. “Men from those parts of Hoenn, they’re all drug addicts and whores and—”

Winona pushed Mom away. “He’s not!”

“Did he or did he not do drugs?” Mom retorted, all serenity gone from her voice.

“That doesn’t make him a freak!”

“Don't put words in my mouth,young lady! You’re lucky you didn’t get caught up in his drugs. You’re lucky he didn’t get you pregnant or take adva—”

“Shut up shut up SHUT UP SHUT UP!”

The world had found sound again, too much. Too much painful noise.

-

Sootopolis City didn’t have the money for more than one hospital—just Tzirachi’s Mercy Medical Center—but it managed to make that one hospital as beautiful as possible. A shining example of this dedication was the courtyard: a stone path wandered across a stream, wavelike patterns were drawn in a bed of sand, and a large maple tree protected the garden from harsh sunlight.

There were also Pokémon abound: Sunflora dancing in patches of sun, Chimecho floating by and ringing pleasant tones, Torchic playing tag, Roselia tending to beds of lavender… But what stuck out to Winona most were, of course, the Wingull in the tree.

But none of them were calming Winona down. She was angry. Very angry.

Wallace was asleep off at the base of the tree, resting against a Chansey and holding two Azurill in his lap. He looked... he looked peaceful in his sleep, and he certainly needed peace.

“Cerulean City Gym Leader Faces Seventh Sex Scandal.” “Sootopolis City Mayor in Hot Water; City In Disaster.” Most infuriating, a thousand theories about what Wallace was hospitalized for—cancer, drug overdose, sex addiction, and a whole slew of other things. Winona wanted to yell at every single reporter who had the nerve to speculate on Wallace’s mental and physical state after such a traumatic event. She wanted to storm into the Cerulean City Gym and fight Ren with her own two fists for what that woman did to Wallace. She wanted to—

"Winona? What brings you here?"

Wallace was awake and looking up at Winona. The Azurill in his arms were also giving her curious stares.

Winona took a deep breath and smiled. "I'm here to see you. Are you... How are you doing?"

"Couldn't get much sleep last night. Too antsy." Wallace looked over at the Chansey next to him. "Winona, my girlfriend." He looked back up at Winona. "Sister Dymphna, my caretaker." The Azurill hopped out of his arms to run around Winona. "Antonio and Antonia."

Sister Dymphna held out a stubby little hand. Winona held her box in one hand and shook Sister Dymphna's hand with the other. Antonio and Antonia ran off, leaving just the three of them. Wallace's short-lived smile was gone.

"Can you..." Wallace's voice trailed off.

"Hm?"

"Can you, um, can you hug me?"

Winona swallowed. "Are you sure you want me to be close to you like that?"

"I feel safe with you, and I want to feel safe." There was looming terror in his eyes as he shook his head. "Because there's a world out there where I had to marry Ren and I never got to see you or Steven again and we couldn't get married and Ren used me every night so Megalos could—"

"Wallace."

Winona knelt in front of Wallace. He was staring at his bony legs. Tears started to fall down his face as his breathing hitched.

"I'm sorry, Winona," he whispered. "I'm sorry I almost—"

"Wallace, you didn't do anything wrong. You have nothing you need to apologize for. You didn't do anything wrong.”

Wallace wiped away his tears. "I'm sorry for crying and—"

Winona smiled. "You've been through... a lot of stuff. Whatever you're feeling right now is okay to feel. Whatever you're comfortable with or not comfortable with... it's okay to be comfortable with some things, not be comfortable with other things, and to take some time with other things."

Wallace smiled back, shaking his head. "I don't deserve a woman as wonderful as you.”

"You deserve peace."

Wallace didn't say anything. He just leaned against Sister Dymphna and stared at the grass.

"'You deserve peace.' 'You deserve peace.' Wonder how long it will be before Megalos comes to take away that peace." Wallace chuckled. "But hey, if it's for Sootopolis City, that's all that matters."

“What do you mean by that?” Winona asked as she sat against the tree by Wallace's side. He didn't say anything in response, instead choosing to kiss her cheek.

“You look really cute when you’re angry, like a pretty little bird.”

“Pretty little birds can peck out eyes with no mercy,” Winona muttered.

“Oh come on, Winona darling. I had it coming for not listening to Megalos. I failed Sootopolis City by not listening to him.”

“Why do you say that?”

"Megalos chose me to be Sootopolis City's harbinger of greatness, and look where we are now: I'm in the hospital for countless problems, and Sootopolis City is still facing an unprecedented, historical low. Not even Megalos could beat me into perfection."

A storm of emotions struck Winona's heart. She slowly shook her head and stared at Wallace. He was... He wasn't showing any sort of fear; he was even smiling a bit.

"'Beat you'? What do you mean 'beat you'?"

Wallace pointed to a bruise on his neck. "Whatever helps Sootopolis City," he said in a nonchalant tone, as if physical abuse was just a normal thing for him. That only made Winona more angry. He had been used and abused.

"Wallace"—Winona sat in front of Wallace and stared into his half-focused eyes—"you shouldn't have to go through abuse of any kind."

Wallace looked up at Winona. "But it's not abuse. It's discipline ."

"I don't care what the reasoning is. Abuse. Isn't. Okay."

"It's not abuse—"

"There is no excusing what Ren or Megalos or anyone did to you!"

"IF FORTREE CITY WAS GOING THROUGH SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC HELL, THEN SURELY YOU WOULD UNDERSTAND!!"

They both stared at each other, breathing heavily as the anger drained from their faces and their bodies. Sister Dymphna ran to Wallace's and held him by the arm. She chirped her little Chanseyspeak as he breathed in and out.

Winona closed her eyes and let the soothing music of the wind, the leaves, and the birds calm her down.

"Wallace, if the mayor of Fortree City was choking me or hitting me or making me have sex with older men, how would you react?"

"Simple," Wallace said in a much calmer tone, "I would kill him."

Winona was taken aback by that response. It… wasn't the answer she was expecting.

“Okay, but you would be angry, right? Why is it any different for you?”

“‘Cause I deserve it,” Wallace mumbled.

Winona sighed. “But…” How was she supposed to reason with Wallace in this state? He had suffered from abuse for… so long. So, so long. Having to unlearn something so innate to him…

Wallace smiled as he leaned against Winona. "But I don’t want to think about that. Can I have that hug?"

Winona wrapped her arms around Wallace. The two sat in silence for a bit as she gently rocked him back and forth. The only sound was the squawking of Wingulls. Others found that sound annoying, but to Wallace and Winona, Wingulls had always been a symbol of their love. Besides, they both liked the Wingulls' calls, and that was all that mattered at the moment.

"'Lady, shall I lie in your lap?'" Wallace whispered. Avonspeare.

Winona couldn't keep herself from smiling. She knew these lines by heart. "'No, my lord.'"

"'I mean, my head upon your lap?'"

"'Ay, my lord.'"

"'Do you think I meant country matters?'"

Winona kissed Wallace's cheek, laughing.

"But in all honesty," Wallace whispered, "I'm exhausted. May I sleep on you?"

Winona took the box out of Wallace's hands and kissed him. "You may."

Wallace dozed off in Winona’s lap as she gently combed his hair with her fingers. He was smiling in his sleep, again. Winona hadn’t seen him like this in… gosh, she couldn’t even remember—

That night. The night she found him drunk.

His smile had been wide and his eyes had been aglow. He had looked so happy, but it had been fake. The only real part had been the smell of alcohol.

He had needed to lean on Winona to walk. He had rambled off the lyrics to “Yellow Submarine”, laughed at nothing, mused about love and life.

And then his mood had crashed. He had sprawled on the bed, staring at Winona, smile gone.

“Use me.”

“What do you mean ‘use me’?”

“Use me. Use me for whatever you wish and need. That’s all I’m good for. That’s all I’ve ever been good for. I can’t take him anymore. Just use me like I’m not even alive.”

“What do you mean? Is everything okay, Wallace?”

He hadn’t said anything else for the rest of the night. The next day, Winona had cared for him during the nasty aftermath of binge drinking. So what if they had both skipped classes? Better to ditch class than leave Wallace alone, especially after that night. He didn’t remember anything. He denied anything was wrong. He pretended he hadn’t said anything.

Maybe Wallace was doing better now—maybe even a little happy—but Winona was livid.
 
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Decided to stop by here for my first review for the daily review challenge since I've seen you around and you seem cool.

You mention this is a very personal story, and it shows. That makes it kind of hard to offer criticism, since what am I gonna do? Tell you that's not how eating disorders work? Say a character is being irrational? Even if I thought those things were true this whole story is so noticeably based on personal experience it's impossible for me to deny any of it. Hopefully you get something out of this though. I'll try to stick to the things you listed under preferred feedback (wish more people stated preferred feedback btw, that's really helpful).

Hinodejin
Worldbuilding! At first I thought this meant Hoenn, but further reading implies it's like a national thing which is neat.

Sootopolitan Greek
w o r l d b u i l d i n g

I'm not making fun, this is actually really cool. I'm curious how this fits in the grand scheme (although what you explain/imply later is sufficient for the purpose of the story). What makes Sootopolis so different from the rest of Hoenn? Was/is it a Greek colony or something?

“I’m fine.” Wallace smirked. “You should be worrying about yourself. Victoria and I have been practicing for weeks.”
At first this seemed really abrupt and out of character, but I guess this is just how hiding behind bravado works. We're in Wallace's head so we constantly see how he sees himself, so when he hastily puts up a front it's a sharp turn. All of his characterization so far has been from his own perspective, this is just a hint of how other people might see him. Good stuff.

Characterization in general is really solid. Not a lot of other characters besides Wallace have really had a chance to shine at least so far, but he's great. Hits really close to home sometimes. Realistic depiction of his particular cocktail of mental illnesses. Don't have much else to say for reasons stated above. I noticed there are some different POVs in the last couple chapters. Don't know how much you plan on continuing with that, but it's a fun way to mix things up.

As far as headcanon goes, I think this is cool and also pretty easy to follow. I don't know, I'm pretty lax when it comes to headcanons. Pokemon itself has at least three canons, with multiverses confirmed, so honestly anything goes at this point. Perfectly willing to take a story on its own terms. Like I said I liked the worldbuilding. Different languages are cool and well implemented. I don't know a word of Greek, but it was pretty clear what they were saying from context lol (I assume a lot of "fuck you, go to hell, etc"). Adds depth.

Only thing I can come up with as far as criticism goes is Megalos. He's almost... comically evil? Like literally saying "Why can't you be perfect?" is almost too neatly playing into Wallace's insecurities exactly. That said, he is the antagonist here, and this is a fictional story. A villain who actually sees Wallace in the way that he thinks everyone sees him sorta drives home the whole point of the story and helps show where Wallace's issues come from.

Also typo...

He awoke from his light sleep with a gentle huge on the head.

Yeah that's about it. I enjoyed reading this as much as someone can enjoy reading something this real. Keep up the good work.
 
Decided to stop by here for my first review for the daily review challenge since I've seen you around and you seem cool.
Woah hi there! Was not expecting you to come this way, but it's very much welcome.
Also you think I'm cool? Thank you, senpai.
You mention this is a very personal story, and it shows. That makes it kind of hard to offer criticism, since what am I gonna do? Tell you that's not how eating disorders work? Say a character is being irrational? Even if I thought those things were true this whole story is so noticeably based on personal experience it's impossible for me to deny any of it. Hopefully you get something out of this though. I'll try to stick to the things you listed under preferred feedback (wish more people stated preferred feedback btw, that's really helpful).
"This isn't how eating disorders work. Young adult, Greek/Japanese masc/genderqueer people don't have eating disorders, only straight, white, female teenagers."

I'm joking, of course, but yeah, I totally understand how a fic like this would be hard to review. Also the preferred feedback thing is a carry over from another forum, and I think it's a really cool idea. Helps me figure out what to focus on besides typos.

Worldbuilding! At first I thought this meant Hoenn, but further reading implies it's like a national thing which is neat.
w o r l d b u i l d i n g

I'm not making fun, this is actually really cool. I'm curious how this fits in the grand scheme (although what you explain/imply later is sufficient for the purpose of the story). What makes Sootopolis so different from the rest of Hoenn? Was/is it a Greek colony or something?
depositphotos_83673930-stock-photo-state-of-enlightenment.jpeg

W O R L D B U I L D I N G

In all seriousness, I will gladly sit down and tell you all of my Pokémon worldbuilding headcanons (heck I have a whole Bulbablog for that), especially for Hoenn.
At first this seemed really abrupt and out of character, but I guess this is just how hiding behind bravado works. We're in Wallace's head so we constantly see how he sees himself, so when he hastily puts up a front it's a sharp turn. All of his characterization so far has been from his own perspective, this is just a hint of how other people might see him. Good stuff.
Good stuff in this review.
Characterization in general is really solid. Not a lot of other characters besides Wallace have really had a chance to shine at least so far, but he's great. Hits really close to home sometimes. Realistic depiction of his particular cocktail of mental illnesses. Don't have much else to say for reasons stated above. I noticed there are some different POVs in the last couple chapters. Don't know how much you plan on continuing with that, but it's a fun way to mix things up.
I'm planning on having a few different POVs at the end, at the suggestion of another reviewer on another site.
As far as headcanon goes, I think this is cool and also pretty easy to follow. I don't know, I'm pretty lax when it comes to headcanons. Pokemon itself has at least three canons, with multiverses confirmed, so honestly anything goes at this point. Perfectly willing to take a story on its own terms. Like I said I liked the worldbuilding. Different languages are cool and well implemented. I don't know a word of Greek, but it was pretty clear what they were saying from context lol (I assume a lot of "fuck you, go to hell, etc"). Adds depth.
Oh heck yeah, I did context. I wanted to do hovertext for the Greek, but hovertext didn't translate to Bulbagarden. I'll probably fix that with author's notes.

As for the last part, translating Nicole's raging in chapter eleven:
"Ánte sto diáolo kai parapéra! Gamísou, Kólo-malákas! Gamísou! Gamísou! Gamísou!"
"Go to hell and beyond! Fuck you, mega asshole! Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!"


...So you hit the nail right on the head.
Only thing I can come up with as far as criticism goes is Megalos. He's almost... comically evil? Like literally saying "Why can't you be perfect?" is almost too neatly playing into Wallace's insecurities exactly. That said, he is the antagonist here, and this is a fictional story. A villain who actually sees Wallace in the way that he thinks everyone sees him sorta drives home the whole point of the story and helps show where Wallace's issues come from.
I might get rid of the "why can't you be perfect?" line and tone down some other parts so it's at least a little less on the nose, but hey, you're not the first to point out how Megalos is every one of Wallace's insecurities in one person. Kind of. More like "Megalos is the source and incarnation of most of Wallace's insecurities."
Also typo...
Oh heck yeah. Thanks for pointing that out.
Yeah that's about it. I enjoyed reading this as much as someone can enjoy reading something this real. Keep up the good work.
:)
 
Hiya, it's been a while! Glad to be back. I admit that I always struggle a little in saying thoughts about this specific flavor of fic--Aether sorta touched on a similar vein, but like, if I don't agree with your portrayal of depression or something, that doesn't really make it invalid; it just doesn't make it mine. This type of fic, where the focus is on purposefully flawed characters facing a lot of hard truths is sort of just inherently personal to the author and it's always hard for me as a reviewer to figure out how I want to approach the story on its own terms, and by extension, yours. One author who always writes "way too real shit" to another; I've been wanting to swing around to repay the favor but also wasn't sure when I'd be in the right headspace for things.

'cause shit hits really hard in this one. It's nice to read this after your drabble collection; "who's Megalos? I wish we got to see more of him"; past!me is a fucking idiot, my god. But without the constrains of being told as drabbles, and with the ability to focus more heavily on Wallace, I think I got a much better taste of what you were actually going for here, and I found this to be a really well-written story thus far. Normally with stories that I enjoy I use words like "fun", but I don't really think that applies here; this is one of those stories that I think is really well put together and touches on a lot of issues in a poignant/nuanced way; I hesitate to say "i enjoyed reading it" in the sense that this is the hurt part of hurt/comfort so it's mostly just been a lot of gut punches and not enjoyment so much as, ouch, no, goddamn ... all this to say, I think mission accomplished? I do understand the stress of trying to put deeply personal things in fic, the stress of how others perceive your experiences/fictionalized experiences--all in all I think you make these struggles feel real and painful, but not in a way that overstays its welcome.

There were a few moments that I flagged when I was reading as like, oh god oh no. In general you make really good use of Wallace as limited-third; we're stuck in his head and it's immensely clear that his perception of himself/the world isn't really okay, but his voice is the one he/we've got, so it's going to have to work (or it isn't). I thought the opening scene with the beret was really solid, followed immediately by Wallace taking it off--this isn't a fic where someone puts a cute little hat on you and your problems are fixed with someone telling you that they care. There's a lot of details that just sell how oppressive and bleak Wallace's mindset is; how he can't remember when he last ate his favorite meal, the crippling logic of "well if it's not anorexia or bulimia, it's fine" and "well it could be worse; I could be an actual addict so a little substance abuse is fine"; the art was good and that was all that mattered; the pressure of being your ancestor's legacy ... I think you really capture a lot of difficult emotions in these, and the characterization is really solid. There's something uniquely bleak about going through a shit time as a young adult with minimal coping mechanisms and not being able to even understand how deep in the shit you are that I think you really nail down with these. I haven't struggled with the specific things that Wallace has, but you portray his mindset in a way that seems native to him (in the sense that while he's sitting down and explaining that vomiting is about control for him, it does genuinely feel like he's having to re-explain this to himself rather than to an audience), and it all really works for me imo. And I especially like how it's really unclear how much of this pressure is expected of Wallace and how much is projected--it's the subtle lies that build into the bigger ones, and those lines aren't really clear, and that's the problem but it's also the point.

In light of this, let's talk antagonists vs villains real quick, specifically re: Megalos:
Then there was the tearing of paper. Then there was just the crackling of flames as Megalos tossed the pieces in the fire.
I've reached the point in my life where I can't really in goodfaith call a fictional character "cartoonishly evil" or "cartoonishly stupid" because I've seen enough real people do evil and stupid things that, idk, sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. So I think a better phrase is unnecessarily evil--is this action necessary to tell the story you want to tell, so to speak. In this case, the damage is mostly done with Megalos just ignoring Lisia's drawing, saying it's not important, throwing it aside (with the intent to throw it out later). Dude's a dick who doesn't care about kids with a heart of stone. In this case, the more compelling idea to me was that he doesn't see the drawing the way Wallace sees it, nor does he understand what it actually means to Wallace. The emotional disconnect in this scene is more interesting imo, and just the facts that he can't recognize a) the value that Wallace places on art and b) the desire Wallace has to impress him personally already makes him out to be a formidable person emotionally. His way of thinking is abjectly antagonistic to Wallace's here, and is largely responsible for a lot of Wallace's issues now, and it's really clear when he decides the drawing is a waste of space that this is how the board is laid out and these are where all the characters stand on it.

But when he tears up the drawing and then throws it into the fire for good measure--this doesn't add much imo. The drawing is irreparably destroyed and we get a tangible sense of truly how few fucks Megalos gives about it, but I think just him rejecting it and saying he doesn't have time for childish conceits would have as much of an emotional impact (or perhaps more, since the behavior will seem less exaggerated) than him burning a kid's picture.

And it's sort of up to you, of course--see above not about how reality is often stranger/eviler/stupider than fiction; I can't say with confidence that there isn't someone in the world who would burn crayon drawings if given the chance. I think it mostly depends on how you want to portray Megalos--if he's a cold, calculating guy who's got Sootopolis by the metaphorical balls of its public opinion, and he's socialiting with the best of the socialites or whatever--it does seem a little weird that he'd be so blatantly petty here. This action strikes me as someone who's more prone to giving into their emotions (I hate this waste of paper) rather than maintaining a facade, which seems like the opposite of Megalos's general role/advice for Wallace in the rest of the story, so it felt particularly weird to see him specifically doing this here.

And besides, he's got plenty of time to be evil in the sexual assault trial. Where he would, at least, have an excuse(*) for his shitty actions that's more complex than "I hate fun".
(*)I feel like I need to clarify that wanting your friends to not face jail time for sexually assaulting people and believing you have the wealth/power to do so is not a good reason and does make him a bad person. but as a character motivation it exists, is parseable, and is sadly indicative of a lot of people in the real world.

Nicole beamed another smile before hugging Wallace.

He could let himself have a little more than his strict limitations, right?
“I’m going to call your sister about the disordered—”

Wallace bolted upright. “Juan. Please. Don’t.”
"But it's not abuse. It's discipline."

"I don't care what the reasoning is. Abuse. Isn't. Okay."

"It's not abuse—"
Wallace sat up. “You told my sister and Juan, didn’t you? I was in the kitchen when you called. I heard her talking to you... WHY DID YOU TELL THEM?!”

“Wallace, Wallace, please—”

“I HATE IT HERE!” Wallace shrieked. “I HATE IT HERE! BUT WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO NOW! THE WHOLE WORLD KNOWS THAT I’M A FREAK! AFTER I LEAVE THIS SHIT HOLE, I HAVE TO FACE THE WORLD AND ALL OF THE PEOPLE WHO HATE ME!”
And, hmm. I don't think I'd actually spend so much time typing this out if I didn't think you did a really good job of making the other characters antagonists in their own rights--they're definitely working in Wallace's best interest and they're trying to help him, but in the literary sense of "being against the protagonist", I think you do a really great job of showing how sometimes mental illness takes your friends and makes them enemies, and you show that in a way that hurts but is real. Wallace is of course the main antagonist of this story--which is why his friends acting in goodfaith is actually perceived as acting against him in the first place--and conceptually I think it works really, really well. It fucking hurts to see that Nicole's trying to cheer him up with food when food is such a huge issue for him; it's really sad to see Winona just run into a blank wall when she realizes how deeply compartmentalized Wallace's perception of abuse is. Steven and Juan don't even realize the extent to which they've inadvertently antagonized Wallace because in their eyes they're doing the right thing for him--which is such a real and insidious truth about mental illness; it makes you alienate your friends. Honestly before Megalos showed up I think you already had the compelling antagonists on the page in a rock-solid format, which is why Megalos showing up in person to be an actual villain threw me for a loop a little.

And I think the seeds are there--Megalos, especially the perception we get of him from Wallace's general notes/fears about Megalos before Megalos shows up physically--is a really good foil to Wallace's inner voice of demanding to be perfect, of not being good enough. Megalos, unlike the others, doesn't think that Wallace is good enough, and even if you just left it at that I think he'd be a really compelling antagonist without just being an outright villain.
“It’s too late for ‘sorry’, Wallace! Don’t you care for Sootopolis City?! Don’t you care for yourself?!”
Like lines like these really drill home how much of his mindset has infected Wallace's here--don't you care for yourself, oof, my god. My heart dropped when I read this because honestly he reminds me of a lot of people who do think they're still acting in your best interests, and are trying to help you become your best self.

(And all of this would contrast really nicely with Wallace not really being able to discern if his actual friends are doing goodfaith efforts to help him :c)

-

But on the flip side, I really don't know. There's something deeply cathartic about personifying your issues as a fictional character so you can take him to court or punch him in the face, and I don't really want to take that from you while touting literary structure or character arcs lol--your story isn't meant for me-the-individual so it does feel weird to write long treatises on how much you should or shouldn't try to humanize this guy vs villifying him. Shitty people exist in the world and sometimes they exist without nuance, and in that case trying to empathize with them is almost counter-productive since the more necessary thing is to just take them out as quickly as possible before they can hurt anyone else. But I do think you really nailed the way that your own friends can be helpless to fix these things in a way that was really nuanced + delicate, so it was a little odd to see Megalos doing classic Disney villain stuff with the rest of these subtleties in the background.
You’re weak and pale as talc!
I legit burst out laughing on this line. God. It hurts so hard to think about how your friends really care about you but are also going to just irreparably be themselves when you're hurting them by being hurt,,, anyway here's a meme to end off on a good note
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some small prose thoughts--mostly just pulled these because in general you asked for them + are receptive to prose tweaks; overall I thought the tone was really snappy here and you nailed the third-limited narrator. tbh if you hadn't asked I wouldn't have really bothered flagging much since things read pretty smoothly.
She had the same hair and eye color as Wallace, but unlike Wallace, she was perfect. Her white shirt and skirt were perfect. Her simple makeup was perfect. Her posture was perfect. Why couldn't he be perfect?
Having read + reread this in one sitting, I think you do a good enough job of presenting Wallace's obsession with perfection that you don't need the last "why couldn't he be perfect"--it's already pretty clear in just this section that he's jealous of what Nicole has that he doesn't. Purely a matter of opinion on this one though.
“but as soon as I stepped onto the stage, all worries fell to the wayside, and my Goldeen and we both took home gold.”
There are some words missing here in "my Goldeen and we". I'd also argue that it's kind of weird that she specifies "my Goldeen" and not Goldeen's name (since Wallace calls Milotic "Victoria" and in general the humans seem to treat the pokemon as friends rather than property), but I see why you're phrasing this as it is to avoid confusing the audience. Maybe something like
" [...] all worries fell to the wayside, and [Goldeen Name] and I took home gold."
Wallace remembered watching that one live. She hadn't seemed nervous at all; between her and her goldeen there hadn't been a scale or hair out of place. Perfect from start to finish. She hadn't seemed nervous. She hadn't been nervous.
(or something. idk. I don't think I nailed your style 100% in that one but lol, such is life sometimes)
His duties and training were tumultuous shackles, dragging him across oceans. He was at the mercy of Megalos, the socialites of Sootopolis City, and the press, who seemed to intrude more and more into his private life with each passing day. They took his right to choose when to come out to the world as genderqueer and pan and maybe sort of polyamorous, leading to many people turning on him. They took his right to privacy without speculation on his personal or sexual life. They took his right to dignity and respect.
"they took his right" and "without" didn't quite parse to me? I think it'd read more clearly as "They took his right to privacy with incessant speculation on his personal and sexual life"

"leading to many people turning on him" felt like a weird gerund stack. I'd tweak to "causing some people to turn on him" or "causing the less progressive ones to turn on him" or something, hmm. With bits like these it's a little tricky to parse the extent to which Wallace is the golden child and also the outcast loser who gets smeared in the tabloids--not that it's not possible for Wallace to have done nothing wrong and for him to have gotten wrecked like this, and not that it's not possible for Wallace to be hyperfixated on the perceived negatives when in general it's only one or two alt/fringe people trying to drag him (both seem plausible and also horrible for him to go through + understandably intertwined given his mental state)--I just wish we had a little more grounding for what the actual public perception was rather than "many people turn on him". It's one of those rare moments where we see what's happening outside of Wallace's head, so it'd be nice to get a little more grounded context.
“Come on, Victoria,” he said monotonously.
I didn't quite follow why he was talking to Victoria here, specifically why he thought this would be a good cover? Since she's quite large and it'd be difficult for him to act like she's here if she isn't (unless she was here in the entire scene, but she sorta drops off if so)
Winona and haven't seen you yet
You okay?
Wasn't sure if this was an intentional typo (since people texting on phones leads to disaster and it would make perfect sense if Steven forgot a word lol); figured I'd flag it.
But if Wallace tried to fly too close to the sun, Megalos could easily strike him down and send him plummeting into the ocean.
This metaphor didn't really parse for me. "flying too close to the sun" isn't really freedom in this case; it's overstepping your boundaries and overestimating your capabilities--something that Wallace is more than capable of striking himself down for tbh. And it's specifically that the whole overstepping/overcommitting stuff is actually behavior that Megalos would probably appreciate, since it's just Wallace trying to reach too hard for things that he can't get, taking more drugs to stay functional, etc.
“Don’t talk back to me. If you lose three matches in a row, you’ll lose your position.”
I don't really follow the logistics of the three strike rule--this just seems generally so much less forgiving and arbitrary than "lose more than X% of your matches" and it feels a a little ridiculous/difficult to implement. Especially since, from a logistical standpoint, losing one match badly might incapacitate your best team members for a small amount of time, making you more likely to lose the next match, so things would understandably spiral really quickly in a way that this metric seems specifically geared to encourage? And tbh the solution is just to start taking fewer matches with longer breaks between (so that you can guarantee that your aces are always fresh or whatever)--which just generally seems to result in a system where gym leaders are intentionally spacing out matches (either because they're overworked college kids or for the reasoning above) and it'd just be harder to get a gym challenge in the first place?

(and there is of course a pretty sound dystopian/failed system version where for whatever reason, the gym system being broken like this is actually done on purpose and the endgoal is to churn through gym leaders as quickly as possible, but I don't really follow that with the worldbuilding as presented)
but inhaling an Awakening would work just fine to keep him from collapsing from exhaustion
broke: don't do worldbuilding; pokemon canon is flawless
woke: do pokemon worldbuilding for cool shit like giving rowlet a cute hat
bespoke: do pokemon worldbuilding and show that self medication is in fact even worse under futuristic healthcare
Wallace was one year below the drinking age. Did he care? No. Did anyone around him care? No.
He's mentioned to be 19 somewhere else I think, so is the drinking age here 20? Wasn't sure what your intended math was to be (or tbf if 21 would be a realistic drinking age when they're all going out on joblike journeys at the age of 10, if that's also something you're rolling with)
Maybe we could go to my hotel room... or we could do it here, whatever I’m feeling like.
this dialogue is (rightfully) gross! Although I think "whatever I'm feeling like" is a bit too on the nose (not that we really get enough time to see how self-aware she is/isn't re: her being a massive piece of shit); it's sort of implicit in everything she's doing that it's all whatever she's feeling like and no one else is being considered rn.
LSD and marijuana were one week.
One week ago? Happened in one week? This one didn't quite parse for me.
Beep. Beep. Beep.

The light turned into pale gray squares. There was a humming or buzzing sound. There were also the beeps.
I don't know if you need "there were also the beeps" in immediate succession to the beeps. Onomatopoeia has no strict rules though.
A turquoise haired shell of a person.
turquoise-haired
"Well... no."

Juan smiled. "That's my so—boy. That’s my boy.”
oh no juan no this isn't fixed no juan no
"Wallace, when you were born, did the doctors tell your parents 'you have created a child with no worth'?"
"sir, ma'am, congratulations. there is no ethical consumption under capitalism and as such your child is worthless. also assigned male at birth."
There were talks of criminal charges against Ren—charges of sexual assault, charges she had faced before with no repercussions, charges that Ren and Megalos were desperately trying to hide.
the stack of "charges" here was a little hard to keep track off--there's the current charges (which presumably haven't actually been filed in court yet, so I don't think they're charges, just allegations), and then there's also the past charges w/ no repercussions (so presumably dropped/dismissed charges and as such not really charges any more)--so it's sort of unclear which ones are the ones that Ren/Megalos are desperately trying to hide. I think maybe rephrasing it as:
There were talks of criminal charges against Ren. But she'd faced sexual assault charges before with no repercussions, and it was clear that Ren and Megalos were desperately going through the cover-up steps again.
There were talks of criminal charges against Ren--charges of sexual assault, like the countless others that had been dropped and then hidden away by Megalos and Ren before.
(first one implies more that they're trying to hide the current ones + have hidden other ones; second one is more about them just hiding the previous ones with the implication that they'll probably do the same here. idk. I'm quite stupid at parsing things sometimes so the nuance helps a little.)
"Well, at least he's being taken to court."
in conclusion: oh no.
 
I've been training like a Pavlov dog/Let my independence out to take a hike
I feel the need to preface this chapter by saying that I do not endorse the beliefs/actions of the POV character.

Sexual harassment, implied sexual assault, use of queerphobic slurs, bigotry, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, character death, Fantastic Racism, arguments, implied sexual assault, implied eating disorders and drug abuse, mentions of alcohol abuse, slut shaming, themes of sexuality, politics and political themes, blood, strangulation, and a really, really squicky physically, verbally, and sexually abusive mentor/student relationship. I was making edits to this chapter to humanize Megalos, and instead I made him a total creep. I want to murder Megalos.

In 2978, the Hoennian economy collapsed, and the mayor of Sootopolis City at the time, Mayor Myron Makris, did nothing to help his city, save for the select wealthy few. As a result, Sootopolis City fell into financial, social, and political ruin. Unemployment and homelessness reached an all time high. Crime and drug use ran rampant. The city’s reputation among the rest of Hoennese society was shattered. By the end of his first term, Makris was regarded as one of the worst politicians in Hinode’s history. He was almost unanimously voted out of office and replaced by Mayor Matthias Megalos.

Megalos was from one of Sootopolis City's wealthiest families—Upper Sootopolis wealthy. His grandfather had been the first Sootopolitan in the Hoennese House of Representatives, while his father had served in both the navy and the regional government. "Mayor" was a good title for a man of the Megalos bloodline, but it was far less than “Honourable Representative” or “Commander”. One could argue, however, that Megalos was in a much more high-stakes position; it was one thing to represent the city, and it was a completely different thing to save it. Especially when that city represented a group of people that the larger region looked down on. Failure would result in Sootopolis City losing its semi-autonomy, at absolute best. Failure would result in the Megalos name being tarnished.

The story of Lokásoúvia, Rounékyo deity of love, was one of the most important stories in Sootopolitan history. At its core, it was the story of a woman who sacrificed herself to save Sootopolis. It was a story that meant much to the Megalos family. This was reflected in the family crest: the shell of Lokásoúvia’s Clamperl encircled by a Gyarados, a symbol of power.

Megalos believed in many values, all of them embodied by the goddess: the sanctity of marriage, the sacredness of the nuclear and extended family, the value of alliances. But above all else, self-sacrifice was the ultimate virtue. Megalos’s father had given his life for Sootopolis City, as had his father before him. Megalos wasn’t dying for Sootopolis City, though he gave himself up in a metaphorical sense: he quit art school so he could pursue politics—artists didn’t solve problems, but politicians did. He married for social status over selfish feelings like love. Now more than ever, Sootopolis City needed a strong leader, a leader who would do anything for the city. And Megalos would be that leader.

“Don’t fail.”

The first thing he did was kick out many of the unemployed and homeless people in the city; they could always find work in other cities, but in Sootopolis City they were just filling up the soup kitchens, no more useful than litter on the streets. He forced smaller businesses to close down, businesses that weren't adding anything to the city's economy, businesses that were just wasting resources. Sacrifices had to be made for Sootopolis City.

He got approval from the Hoenn League Association to instate a Gym in the city. To be a Gym City was one of the highest honours, a guaranteed way of putting oneself on the map. But none of the other Gym Leaders liked Megalos's candidates, and they instead chose Water type trainer and Lorekeeper Dorian Papadakis as the Sootopolis City Gym Leader… for some reason.

Dorian’s very existence was against everything Sootopolis stood for. He fell in love with a common entertainer and prostitute. They conceived their first child—a daughter—before marriage, when they were both nineteen. And then, some ten years later, it turned out he was mentally ill. He was every stereotype of the promiscuous, drunken, depraved Sootopolitan. But somehow, somehow the Hoenn League decided he was worthy of being Gym Leader, and there was nothing Megalos could do.

“Good?! You think ‘good’ is enough?!?!”

So perhaps Megalos didn’t have control over everything. Perhaps Megalos wasn’t a perfect mayor. He hated himself for it. This was unacceptable. He had to be a perfect mayor. He had to be a perfect mayor.

-

There was a child by Dorian’s side when he came to Megalos’s office: a small, frail looking girl with short, messy, turquoise hair—like her father’s messy hair—and a white dress—like her father’s white shirt. She smiled and waved at Megalos. Well, at least Dorian was raising one proper daughter. Maybe he learned something after conceiving a child outside of marriage.

“You wanted to see me after work?” Dorian sighed. Exhaustion was palpable in his voice and eyes, though he smiled when the girl with him tugged at his blue pants. He picked her up.

It was hard to ignore the shadow looming over Dorian’s past, but he tried to hide that shadow with blinding radiance. He won over the city with his charm and grace, he proved himself a worthy opponent on the battlefield, and he made it a point to stand up for Sootopolis City on the regional and national stage.

But that light only intensified the shadows, from Megalos’s point of view.

Megalos nodded. “I did.” He sat down at his desk. “What a lovely daughter you have here—”

“Son,” Dorian corrected.

Megalos’s smile fell. “Son?”

Dorian looked down at the girl—boy—in his arms. She—he—was shivering. “Wallace, this is Megalos, my work friend. Megalos, this is Wallace, my son.” Dorian wrapped one end of his purple scarf around Wallace. “My little boy here has taken quite an interest in my duties as Lorekeeper. He—”

“Son? What, is he unbreeched or something?”

“Wallace likes wearing dresses. Besides, we can’t exactly afford to get new clothes for him, and Nicole's old hand-me-downs fit nicely.”

“Do you really need another daughter?”

Dorian’s smile fell. “If Wallace ends up being a man or a woman or something else, he’ll end up being that whether or not I let him wear dresses. The only difference is whether he grows up loving himself or hating himself.”

Dorian sat in the chair in front of Megalos’s desk, and Wallace played with his scarf. She—he—looked up at Megalos as Dorian asked, “Why did you ask me to come to speak to you?”

“I heard you lost a Gym battle today.”

Dorian nodded. “I did. To a rather talented Ice type trainer. She said she’s from Orzeska, and she’s travelling to regions of warmer climates so she can train her Ice type Pokémon.” He smiled, as though he was recounting a happy tale.

This wasn’t a happy tale. This was imperfection.

“You say that as though it’s a thing to celebrate,” Megalos mumbled. “It’s only been a week since you’ve started this line of work. Do you think the League will tolerate this?”

Dorian shook his head. “It’s a learning experience. I learned how to better counterattack Ice types. More importantly, I got to hear many wonderful stories of the woman’s travels. For example—”

“The Hoennese government already looks down on this city! We can’t afford to lose to some stupid tales!”

Dorian sighed. That dumb smile of his was gone. “The government’s not going to like us regardless of whether I win or lose. I don’t thing a singular loss is going to change—”

Megalos slammed his fist on his desk. Wallace gasped and began to cry, burying her— his—face in Dorian’s scarf. Pitiful; this boy dressed and acted like a girl. If this was how Dorian raised his children, how was he supposed to be a Gym Leader?

“I don’t want you getting smart with me!” Megalos bellowed. “As your mayor—”

“I don’t care if you’re the mayor.”

Dorian’s shaky voice had sharpened. One arm was wrapped around Wallace, while the other was pointing a cold finger towards Megalos.

“Power is a drug, Megalos. Consume too much too quickly, and it gets to your head. For some, that kind of intoxication brings wrath, and it also brings a false sense of superiority. And if we want Sootopolis to be a community where our children can survive, you must not let that drunkenness come to you.”

Dorian stood up and began walking to the door. His daughter—son—looked over Dorian's shoulder as the man said, “As a Lorekeeper of this city, I pray to the Sky Dragon that you find sobriety from your newfound power high. Good. Luck.”

He opened the door and left, slowly shutting the door behind him. A few seconds passed. Then Megalos threw his chair into the wall.

What was Dorian saying? Megalos wasn’t drunk on power. That was like saying it was possible to get drunk on water. And sobriety! What a hypocrite! Alcoholics had no right talking about sobriety like that!

Megalos needed power. He needed it for himself. He needed it for Sootopolis City. He needed power to be perfect. He needed power to make Sootopolis City perfect. Anything less than perfect was imperfect. Anything less than perfect was terrible.

Makris didn’t know how to make Sootopolis City perfect. Dorian didn’t know how to make Sootopolis City perfect. Nobody knew how to make Sootopolis City perfect. But Megalos knew. Megalos knew that everything—everything—needed to be perfect, perfect, perfect.

-

By all accounts from the other Hoennian Gym Leaders, Dorian and Megalos did not get along. But despite their massive differences in character and beliefs, Sootopolis flourished under the combined leadership of Dorian and Megalos.

Dorian proved himself to be a formidable opponent on the battlefield, ranking as the second strongest Gym Leader in the Hoenn region and the tenth strongest in Hinode overall. Outside of his duties, he engaged with Upper Sootopolitans and Cardinal Plaza courtesans alike, as controversial as it was with the former. He was a Sootopolitan Gym Leader, he said, not a Gym Leader of the Sootopolitans.

He was often criticised for actions like diminishing the historical importance of Sootopolis City’s red light district or making questionable remarks on homosexuality, but he justified his claims with Rounékyo text: same-sex relationships and extramarital sex were sin, and sin had destroyed Gourádon and Kaióga. According to Rounékyo belief, the two deities had fed on sin long ago, causing them to gain anger and bitterness for each other that had almost destroyed the world.

Seven years later, however, the city lost its Gym Leader.

-

Megalos was a very good mayor. He went to the funerals of important people to pay his respects, even if he didn’t like them.

Dorian Papadakis and Lucille Izumi were dead, alongside their Pokémon, taken from the world by Kaióga’s fury. Part of Megalos believed that this was part of the Sky Dragon’s plan. A new Gym Leader—a good Gym Leader—could replace Dorian, and Sootopolis City could thrive. It was a sign from the heavens that Megalos was right all those years ago and the League was wrong.

Another part of him knew it was selfish to celebrate the death of two people, sinful perhaps. But Megalos didn’t like Dorian and Lucille: Dorian had been effeminate, rebellious, pompous, self-centered. Sure, as a Lorekeeper, he had been adamant on keeping Sootopolis’s culture and history and stories alive, but Megalos was sure that the ancient Sootopolitans were expressing their disappointment with him, assuming Dorian was allowed among them. He was tainted with Sin, too engrossed in art and his own issues to focus on the city. And Lucille? Lucille had been a nobody, the daughter of two poor immigrants, a harlot who had barely gotten by performing in Slateport City’s clubs or engaging in extramarital sex. And the two had done terrible things: They had engaged in intimate relations before marriage, raised their children to be crossdressing deviants who would probably grow up to be strippers and drug dealers—

“Mr. Megalos?”

A young woman with black hair, turquoise eyes, and olive skin stared at Megalos. Cruzita Yoshiyama, Psychic type Gym Leader of Mossdeep City and Mauville TV’s newest weather reporter. She seemed like a respectable enough middle class woman, but she had never given Megalos any reason to like her. Maybe she would change his mind one day. Unlikely, seeing as she thought drug addicts made better Gym Leaders than well-to-do trainers.

“First of all,” Cruzita began solemnly, “I want to say that I am deeply, deeply sorry for the loss of Dorian and Lucille. Hoenn will be much less bright without their light, and I can’t even begin to imagine the pain you and their family must be going through.” Her words were certainly empty. Since when did Cruzita care for Megalos? Just as Megalos was putting up a facade of caring for Dorian and Lucille, so too was Cruzita putting up a facade of caring for Megalos.

“Your words are very kind, Miss Yoshiyama.” If anything, Megalos thought, it will be brighter without the stain of their presence.

Cruzita nodded. “Second of all, the HLA has been discussing what to do about replacing Dorian, and there’s a very good chance—a 90% chance—that Juan will step up and take the role of Sootopolis City Gym Leader.”

Although Dorian and Megalos never got along when the former was alive, they did share a mutual friend: Juan. Megalos detested Juan’s love of Contests and his… outward flamboyance, but Juan was a wealthy, respectable Trainer from a prominent Paldean and Kalosian family. Juan was the lesser evil. Better to have a competent but homosexual Gym Leader than an incompetent and sexually depraved Gym Leader.

It was an imperfect solution, though.

By the side of the Church of the Ascent—the church where Dorian and Lucille had gotten married, the church where they had baptised their children, the church where they had been blessed so as to go on to the next world—was a small cemetery painted white. In one corner of the cemetery, a woman knelt before and stared at two headstones. A man stood over her like he was Jirachi’s Angel of Deaths by Disaster or something. Hopefully, that angel was taking Dorian and Lucille to hell.

That woman was Nicole, wasn’t it? Dorian and Lucille’s bastard child born before they got married?

Where was their other child?

-

Megalos weaved through grieving family and friends, professional mourners, and clergymen to find Wallace, sitting alone with a Seaking, crying.

Megalos wanted to grab the boy by the collar and shake him and scream at him. How stupid was this boy? Did he have any self respect? Did he know how much Megalos had paid for old ladies to cry instead of the grieving loved ones? Public grieving was disgraceful!

But Megalos wasn’t a bad mayor. He didn’t believe in unnecessary violence out of anger. He only used violence when necessary. When his father would beat him, it was because Megalos had done something wrong. When Megalos spanked his children, it was because they had misbehaved. He wouldn’t give into his emotions and beat the boy, especially not in a church and in front of his family. That wouldn’t look good for Sootopolis City.

“Stop crying, boy. Sootopolitans don’t cry.”

Sniffling, Wallace looked up and wiped away his tears with the sleeve of his black dress. A dress. Was this boy so poor and pitiful that he couldn’t even afford to stop looking like a girl?

The whispers of the other members of the Papadakis line echoed from the other side of the church:

“Will Nicole be able to take care of Wallace when she’s expecting a child out of wedlock?”

“Like mother, like daughter.”

“Ionia and I could take in the boy.”

Megalos looked back down at Wallace. He was nine or ten, wasn’t he? Still young and impressionable… He could be moulded into whatever Sootopolis City needed: a replacement Lorekeeper, an eventual replacement Gym Leader, a political figurehead… Adults were firm in themselves, but children were malleable. Sure, Megalos could have used one of his own kids, but none of them were as young and impressionable as nine or ten year old Wallace. None of them were as vulnerable as grieving and emotionally distraught Wallace. Also, both of Megalos’s children were girls; a boy was much more preferable to be a political figure.

Maybe there was a reason why Megalos and Wallace were meeting here and now in this church. Maybe it was the will of the heavens. Maybe they saw something in Megalos and something in Wallace. Maybe Megalos was supposed to replace Dorian as Wallace’s father. Maybe if he raised Wallace right, he wouldn’t go down the paths Dorian—

“Matthias?”

Juan was staring at Megalos. Wallace and the Seaking were by his side, the former clinging onto Juan’s arm. The Papadakis family looked confused, and Megalos couldn’t help but share the feeling.

“I know you… I… Dorian and I were very close, and I know you have two children of your own while I have none. Between your parenthood and mayoral duties, perhaps I should take the boy in.”

Megalos wanted to keep the boy all to himself, but… he had to sacrifice his wants for his public image. “I will raise him, too. He has my blessing to carry on the legacy of the Lorekeepers. And maybe… maybe he will be my protégé. But you may take him in as though he were your son.” Well, at least this left Juan with the messier parts of child-rearing, like taking care of Wallace when he got sick.

There were gasps—scoffs from the Papadakis family.

“Wallace?!”

“Why not our daughter? She’s much stronger and healthier than Wallace!”

“Why are you choosing him?!”

“Children, children,” Ionia Papadaki, the matriarch of the family, hushed, “this is a blessing. Let us not diminish it because it isn’t perfect.” The shorter, older woman looked up at Megalos and Juan. “Please, he’s my only grandson. Raise him well. Make him someone I can be proud of.”

Megalos nodded. “Only the best for Sootopolis City.”

-

Juan quickly rose to be the strongest Gym Leader in Hoenn and the fifth strongest in Hinode. Similar to Dorian, he used Water types. Similar to Dorian, he entertained the rich and poor alike.

In contrast to Makris’s laissez-faire approach to solving the city’s issues, Megalos took a more proactive approach. While he met some criticism with many of his choices—detracting funding away from important cultural buildings in dire need of repair, halting the passing of several civil rights laws, and enacting stricter punishments for breaking curfew—his second term was marked by a return to Sootopolis City’s roots as a center of trade and commerce, a return to values of family and beauty. During the second term, votes from the working class were at an all time high for any Sootpolitan mayor, though many people were openly critical of Megalos.

There was also the matter of the child Megalos had acquired. Some called him the child Juan could never have. Others called him Megalos’s amends for his rivalry with Dorian. In either case, he was certainly something to be proud of—Wallace was a prodigious child of the arts and of Pokémon. With the exception of one minor incident with a Gyarados, he had a gift when it came to communicating with Water type Pokémon.

-

The garden of the Aguado estate was a masterpiece of architecture. Even Megalos had to admit it wasn’t a complete waste; it was a symbol of the family line’s wealth, a lavish display of what they could afford to flaunt.

Wisteria climbed up the white walls, their blossoms wavering in the wind like a waterfall. White tiles with patterns of earthly brown and ultramarine decorated the ground. The interior of the white fountain—which had four stone Feebas on the Cardinal points facing the Milotic in the center—was lined with similar brown and blue tiles. The courtyard alone must have cost a fortune, and that wasn’t even considering that both sides of Juan’s family still had fortunes to spare in their wills.

A girl with sepia brown skin and navy and cyan hair ran across the courtyard. She wore an orange jacket over a fancy blue dress. Running after her a long distance away was a boy with pale, freckled skin and pink hair. He was wearing dirty overalls over a clean, white button up shirt. Their laughter filled the air.

“Slow down, Nessa!” the boy called.

“You’ll never catch me, Milo!” the girl laughed. “I’m the best adventurer, even better than Torneko!”

“Yeah, but I’m the best fighter! I’ll beat you in a Pokémon—“

Nessa skidded to a stop. Milo realized this too late, and he ended up crashing into her. They both fell to the ground.

“Hey!” Nessa huffed, “we have a fancy party to go to! We can’t get our clothes dirty!”

Milo sat up. He smiled, showing off the gaps where he had lost his two front teeth. “Well, I already did.” His clothes were always covered in dirt or grass stains.

Nessa laughed.

“What did you stop for?” Milo asked.

Nessa pointed at a column. Wallace, dressed in a white sailor suit and beret, stared back, mouth agape and eyes wide. It was hard to tell if he was scared, surprised, or something else.

Milo was the first to walk up to the boy. He held out his hand.

“Hi there! My name is Milo. What’s yours?”

The boy stared at Milo, then he stared at Milo’s hand, then he looked back at his book, never once saying a word.

“Do you want to play with us?” Nessa asked.

The boy shook his head. Nessa and Milo looked at each other.

“Are you sure?” Nessa asked as she looked back at the boy. “We’re playing Mystery Dungeon. Milo and I are Milotic searching for treasure in the sea!”

At the mention of Milotic, the boy’s eyes lit up, but he eventually looked back down at his book.

Some distance away, Juan and Megalos were watching the three children from a table nearby.

“I don’t see why you’re entertaining commonfolk,” Megalos mumbled as he took a sip of his tea. “What are they, fishermen? Farmers?”

“Kabu is a… friend of mine,” Juan explained. “We go far back. He moved to Galar a while back, but he still has family in Hoenn. And he has found other family in Galar; Nessa and Milo are to him what Wallace is to me.”

“His students?”

“His children.”

Megalos raised an eyebrow, but he chose not to say anything. It was clear Juan had some grief over being infertile, and pressing further on the issue would be stupid.

“He’s a very kind man,” Juan sighed. “A wonderful, wonderful mentor and friend and—”

“There are plenty of rich families in Galar that Wallace could be mingling with,” Megalos interjected. “The Rose estate, the Starostas, the Vinogradov family—“

Juan shook his head. “Rich kids don’t have a good history of treating Wallace well. Can we not appreciate him finding friends, regardless of their social status?”

Megalos put his cup down on the table. He stared at Juan, calm but stern.

“Juan.” His voice was low, grim, demanding. “Do you know what is at stake here? Sootopolis City’s economy is deep in the gutter. Homelessness and unemployment are getting worse and worse. The Hoennese government is giving us nothing, and so we must give up everything we have and are. We can’t afford to focus on the needs of the individual.”

Juan’s brows furrowed. “If you do not know who you are, if you are nothing, then you will have nothing to give.”

“Juan, that makes no sense. Selfishness is Greed, and Greed birthed Sin.”

“It’s not selfish to spend time focusing on oneself. It;s only selfish when you become lost in yourself. I want Wallace to explore himself, his expression, his interests…”

Megalos squinted so he could see what book Wallace was reading.

“‘Sootopolitan Sculpture’?!”

“The gods blessed us with colours to see and paint,” Juan mused, clearly not sensing Megalos’s anger, “love to lend to others and ourselves, flora—“

“Wallace needs to be preparing for the future of Sootopolis City,” Megalos growled. “What is sculpture going to do to save Sootopolis?”

Juan finally took a hint, noticing Megalos again with disdain. “He is preparing for his future. I’m teaching him about Pokémon. I’m teaching him about the city’s history and culture. I’m giving him freedom.” Juan smiled once more. “Rekkoúza gave us the freedom to choose—”

“Rekkoúza needs us to choose good! He needs us to make the right decisions!”

Juan’s anger was rising by now, and he stared at Megalos with bitter eyes. “They gave us a choice between good and evil, yes, but they also gave us the freedom to choose our own path in life—”

“BULLSHIT!”

The whole courtyard went silent. The children were staring at Megalos, eye wide. Megalos breathed in deeply and looked at Wallace, who was covering his ears and trembling.

“Wallace, come with me. Now. I will teach you what Juan refuses to teach you.”

Juan stood up. “Matthias—“

“If you don’t sit down, I am forbidding these children from ever seeing Wallace again.”

Juan slowly, slowly obliged. Wallace wordlessly stood up and began to walk to Megalos. Wallace took his hand, and Megalos led him out of the courtyard. Such an obedient boy. Such a waste being tutored by people who didn’t understand him.

“You don’t need that book, Wallace,” Megalos said calmly. “You need to learn about politics, not art. You want to keep Sootopolis safe, don’t you?”

Wallace looked up at Megalos, eyes trembling with tears. “Don’t yell, Mr. Megalos. I don’t like yelling.”

Megalos put his hand on Wallace’s head. “Adults yell all the time, Wallace. You want to grow up to be an adult, don’t you? Then you need to get used to yelling. Listen to adults when they yell at you. Listen to your elders. And stop crying. Sootopolitans don’t cry.”

Megalos caught a glance of Wallace looking back towards Nessa and Milo.

“You don’t need friends like that,” Megalos sighed. “No need to be so sad. They probably don’t even understand you like I do.”

-

Despite his increasingly aggressive political decisions, Megalos was known to be a very calm politician… for the most part. After drunken anger boiled into a fight with Mauville City Gym Leader Wattson, Megalos swore off of violence. Rumours still emerged of coworkers comparing him to a ticking time bomb, ready to explode if anything went wrong.

But the tabloids quickly latched onto Wallace as he entered puberty. As he grew older, they speculated on his relationships, his sex life, whatever striked their fancy.

Eventually, news came that Wallace was eighteen years old, the legal age of marriage and consent in Hinode.

-

Megalos was a very good mayor. He knew how to get elected and re-elected. He knew which people to talk to to gain respect, what money to spend to support Sootopolis, what districts to draw out to win the most votes, what obstacles to crush to maintain his facade, what enemies to destroy to clear his path to victory. He wasn’t doing anything bad; he was just doing what was right for Sootopolis City, and he was securing his right to and his need for power and control.

He was playing a game of chess. Every piece had to be moved to the right spot and sit perfectly in its square. Pieces of all sorts had to be sacrificed here and there, opponents had to be destroyed, but that was all a part of the game, the game to save Sootopolis City.

“Wallace, I’d like you to meet Melissa Zaizen. Melissa, Wallace Papadakis.”

Melissa was a beautiful woman—clear, beige skin without a single imperfection; long, straight, walnut brown hair; eyes a beautiful shade of violet; a long, modest, light blue dress and a matching, modest sun hat; makeup that was simple, pretty, and modest.

Wallace was eighteen. He was old enough to get married. He was old enough to copulate. With that and his status in the city, it was imperative for Megalos to find him a wife, a wife to support him financially and politically, a wife to produce children for him, a wife to make Sootopolis City well respected in the Hoenn region. Sure, Megalos had set Wallace up with women before, but Juan always protested that the women were “too old” and Wallace was “too young”. Didn’t Juan know that Wallace could be set up with a woman and then marry her once he turned eighteen?

But those protestings wouldn’t stop Megalos anymore, because now Wallace was of legal age. Juan couldn’t protest anymore.

Marriage was touted as a vow of love, but that was just sugarcoating nonsense. Marriage had always been a tool of negotiation, a means to an end. The love nonsense was just a way of prettying it up for unruly young adults like Wallace. Megalos didn’t love his wife. His father hadn’t loved his mother. Marriage was a sacrifice of wants for needs.

That was where Dorian and Juan failed; Dorian had run off with a poor nobody instead of marrying the upper class lady he was meant to, and now the Papadakis family was in disarray, with Wallce as their only hope at salvation. Juan had given into his homosexual desires instead of suppressing them, and now he was trying to raise another traitor to Sootopolis.

But Wallace, Wallace was different. Wallace listened to Megalos. Wallace loved Sootopolis City. Wallace was obedient, devoted to duty. If Wallace had been born a woman, he would have made a good wife, and maybe Megalos would have actually loved a woman for once. If Wallace had been born a woman, then the question of marriage wouldn’t even need to be asked; he would just marry Megalos.

But Wallace was a man despite his pretending, and his femininity, his weakness, his emotions, what would have been strengths as a wife were weaknesses in a future husband.

But his submissiveness was certainly an asset, wife or Megalos’s figurehead. Wallace knew his place. He knew what needed to be sacrificed. He knew to listen to Megalos.

Wallace waved to Melissa, though the confidence usually present in his eyes was gone. Then again, the confidence and glow in his eyes was slowly fading with each passing day. He was wearing a respectable suit, at least. Nothing foppish or feminine, thank goodness. It was loose, though, and it was enough to tell Megalos that the body underneath was skinny, feminine, weak. Wallace would have made a good woman. He should have been a woman. Then Megalos wouldn’t be distracted by… obsessive thoughts about Wallace. Then Wallace would be perfect.

Nevertheless, Megalos smiled, clasping his hands together. He had to make due with what he had, and he had to make the Wallace he had perfect.

“Well, with those introductions out of the way, why don’t you two come down with me to the dining hall?”

-

Megalos had made sure that the chefs prepared their finest dishes and arranged them perfectly on the dining room table. Wallace, who was sitting in between Megalos and Melissa at the table, picked at a plate of unseasoned rice with his fork.

“Wallace,” Megalos hissed into his ear, “eat something.”

“I’m not hungry,” Wallace whispered back. Ungrateful little brat. If he was Megalos’s kid or wife, that would be enough to warrant a spanking. If this was supposed to be the golden child chosen by the heavens, why didn’t he act like it? Why was Wallace so selfish?

“What are you two talking about?” Melissa asked, drawing out her words a bit. She put a hand on Wallace’s leg, but he quickly pulled away from her.

“Let her touch you, Wallace,” Megalos ordered. “Don’t you think Melissa is a pretty woman?” Why was Wallace never attracted to any of the women Megalos set him up with? And even if he wasn’t into them, why didn’t he at least pretend he was? Megalos pretended he loved his wife just fine, so why couldn’t Wallace? Did he not know what was at stake?!

Wallace smiled. “I-I think she’s a very pretty woman…” He took Melissa’s hand and pushed it away. “Well, Melissa, do you have any favorite artists?”

Megalos jabbed his elbow into Wallace’s bony side. He must have hit hard, because Wallace winced and held his side.

“That’s your idea of a conversation topic?” Megalos snarled. Wasn't Wallace the son of Dorian, supposedly acclaimed rhetor? Wasn't he good with words? Why was he stuttering? Why was he talking about art?

“I don’t,” Melissa replied to Wallace. “Do you?”

Wallace closed his eyes, a soft smile forming on his lips as he leaned back against his chair. “Well, there’s—“

“Great. Wonderful. Save me the lecture.”

Wallace opened his eyes to glance at Melissa. “My apologies. I’m just excited to further study art once I start college.”

Melissa cocked her head. “You’re studying art? I remember studying medicine.”

Wallace gave Melissa a longer, more intense stare. “How… How old are you?”

“Twenty eight.”

Silence. Wallace looked at Megalos, then back at Melissa, then back at Megalos. Not once did his expression change. Finally, he spoke again:

“Melissa, I’m sure you’re a fine lady, but I… I don’t think we’re compatible as a couple.”

Melissa’s eyes quivered with tears, then—crying—she ran off. Megalos was fuming.

“What was the meaning of that, Wallace?!”

Wallace didn’t respond. Instead he stood up and ran off like the coward he was.

“WALLACE!”

-

Megalos thought he could hear Wallace throwing up in the bathroom. This was unacceptable. Illness was unacceptable. Noncompliance was unacceptable. Imperfection was unacceptable. Wallace had done nothing but unacceptable things the whole damn night. First his parents, and now Juan was raising him to be a spoiled brat? Juan was going to need a strong talking to, or Megalos would have to take Wallace into his own hands.

“Wallace! Get out here and speak to me, young man!”

A whole minute passed before Wallace opened the door. He was shivering. His tie was undone, and his face and hair were dishevelled.

“Your behaviour towards Melissa was unacceptable, young man!”

“I’m sorry, Sir,” Wallace half said, half mumbled. He looked exhausted, though the way his brows were lowered suggested he was annoyed with Megalos. He had the nerve to be annoyed after making a fool of himself and Sootopolis City?

“Melissa is a perfect potential wife!” Megalos continued. “She’s rich, she’s influential in Mauville City, she’s well respected—”

“She’s ten years older than me,” Wallace snapped back. “I am not marrying someone ten years older than me, much less someone ten years older than me who I just met. I’ll find myself the right—”

Something suddenly possessed Megalos. No, something had been boiling in Megalos for years: fear over the state of Sootopolis, confusion over the changes surrounding him, anger over his lack of power and control in the world. And now, on top of all that, Wallace had the nerve to choose himself over Sootopolis, after everything his ancestors had sacrificed for Sootopolis, after everything Megalos had sacrificed for Sootopolis?!

A hard fist met Wallace’s face.

Wallace staggered back against the bathroom wall. With his hand over his nose, he looked up at Megalos, shocked, confused, furious. Blood started to drip from his nose, on his hand, onto the floor.

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!” Megalos grabbed Wallace by the shirt collar and shook him. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!” He slammed Wallace against the wall. Holding Wallace tight against it, Megalos snarled in the bastard’s bloody face.

Megalos was a good mayor. Megalos was a good mayor. Wallace was bad. Wallace was bad and selfish and cruel and hedonistic and bad, bad, bad. If this spoiled little brat was going to try to defy Megalos’s commands and ruin Sootopolis City by being a slutty little she-man, someone was going to have to keep him in line, and neither his parents nor Juan would be doing that. This was Megalos’s duty. Megalos needed to take matters into his own hands. He needed power. He needed control. He needed to save Sootopolis City.

He twisted his grip on Wallace’s collar. Megalos was a good mayor, and Wallace was a bad Gym Leader, a bad Lorekeeper, a bad, bad kid who needed to be put into his place. If Sootopolis City was to survive, Wallace needed to be good—no, perfect, and Megalos was the only person able and willing to get anything done. There wasn’t room for failure anymore. There wasn’t room for want anymore, especially not selfish wants like “love” and “choice”.

Wallace couldn’t breathe in Megalos’s chokehold. Damn well deserved it.

“Why do you get to run around and do as you please while I have to take on everyone’s burdens?!” Megalos screamed. “Why can’t you listen?! I wish you were a woman so I could beat you into a perfect wife and so you would know your fucking place! You need to listen to others! If I could get my way, if I could get my fucking way…” Megalos didn’t know what else to say. He would do a lot of things if he had his way: leave his wife, pursue art again… but in this moment, he wanted power and control over the only thing he had control over: Wallace. He wanted to strangle Wallace. He wanted to let out his frustrations on Wallace. He wanted to fucking murder Wallace.

But then, Megalos let go of Wallace, who then fell to the floor, trembling, barely conscious. He looked up at Megalos like a terrified little Whismur.

Megalos looked down at his hands. Never before had he felt so… powerful. He hadn’t killed Wallace, but if he ever got too out of line—

No. What horrible thoughts to think. Murder was a Sin. Murdering such a public figure would be disastrous for Sootopolis City. How would the Megalos line ever recover from the stain of murder?

But Megalos had that power. Megalos could slap or hit or even threaten violence to mould Wallace to the needs of Sootopolis City. Megalos wouldn’t kill, but he could.

“I’m sorry, Sir.” Wallace meant it this time. He was begging for forgiveness, kneeling, grabbing Megalos’s pant leg, as if Megalos was the Mediator of the Sky himself. “I’m so, so sorry. If there’s anything I can do to make up for this—“

“You don’t talk about this with Juan or your sister or anyone, do you hear?” Megalos hissed. “They won’t understand. They’re selfish. You’re not selfish, are you?”

Wallace meekly shook his head. “No. No. No, I don't think so. Do you think I’m selfish?”

“I do.” Those words put even more terror in Wallace’s eyes, even though they were spoken in a much calmer voice. “I think you’re very, very selfish. I thought you cared for Sootopolis, Wallace. I’m disappointed. Very, very disappointed.”

“I’m sorry. I’m so, so, so—”

“It’s too late for sorry, Wallace. You’ve ruined any connection we could make with the Zaizen family, and now Sootopolis City will suffer for it.”

Megalos put a hand on Wallace’s head and forced him to look up. Wallace looked so… beautiful when he was obedient, when he was scared.

“But there are plenty of richer families,” Megalos continued. “And you’ll behave in front of them, won’t you?”

Wallace couldn’t nod, but he did say, “I’ll behave.”

Megalos wanted to smile, but he couldn’t. Not with so much at stake. “You’d better behave.”

“Mr. Megalos? Do you love me?”

That question made Megalos pause. Megalos didn’t love Wallace—not as a wife, not as a son, not as a friend—and even if he did love him romantically, that would be sinful. Homosexuality was sinful. But Megalos needed Wallace. He needed Wallace in order to survive. He needed Wallace in order to save Sootopolis.

He needed Wallace so he could have some semblance of power and control.

“I do love you,” Megalos finally replied, “but I want you to be worthy of my love. I want you to listen to me. I want you to make me proud.”

I want you to make Sootopolis proud.

-

As Megalos’s second term came to an end and his third term began, his political actions became calmly aggressive, quietly draconic.

He quietly shot down bills to protect the homeless and the unemployed. He gave drug crimes and even just drug use harsher punishments. He shut down papers criticising him, even shutting down the sketch comedy show “The Andreou and Barlos Show” after they made a skit poking fun at him. He shut himself out from friends, coworkers, and even family, only speaking to the public during socialite parties and PR managers. One such PR statement stated simply, “We need perfection. Nothing else can be tolerated.”

The paparazzi speculated a lot over Wallace's sexuality, over who Wallace would marry, over what he was doing around Megalos. Wallace had always been a magnet for speculation. No one expected that he would be betrothed to Cerulean Gym Leader Ren Mizutani, though.

-

Megalos was a good mayor. Megalos was a good mayor. Megalos was a good mayor.

Fuck Dorian. Fuck Lucille. Fuck Juan. Fuck everyone. But most of all, fuck Wallace. Megalos knew what was best for Sootopolis City, and nobody understood. Did they even care for the city? Did they have an ounce of self respect? Nobody understood what was at stake. Nobody. Nobody. Nobody.

Nobody except Ren Mizutani.

A woman of 34, Ren was one of the strongest Gym Leaders in the Kanto region. She was a wealthy woman with a lot of influence, socializing with the likes of the Tanakas and the Yamaguchis. Her eldest children—three triplets—were all sixteen, while her youngest son, Floris, was seven years younger than Wallace. Ren was fifteen years older than Wallace, sure, but age was just a number: Wallace could talk to people far older or far younger than himself, and even before turning eighteen he could handle the flirtations of older socialites. He and Ren were of the age of consent and marriage, and age gaps in marriages weren't uncommon. Besides, Ren still had several years ahead of her to try to conceive more children with Wallace, to conceive an heir to make sure Sootopolis lived on even after Megalos passed.

Wallace was impure. He had slept with several people before—like that lecherous succubus Winona, or that man whore Steven. Ren was also impure, having two marriages and divorces in her past. By setting them up, Megalos wouldn’t have to taint purity with premarital Sin, and Wallace would serve his greater purpose of saving Sootopolis.

And so Megalos set up a party to acquaint Ren and Wallace on the battlefield and in conversation, eventually leading to Ren proposing a romantic relationship. At this point, Wallace needed to be offered such matters with alcohol—specifically liquor disguised as wine, as desperate times called for desperate measures. Wallace complied better under the influence of drugs. Drugs made Wallace listen to Megalos's demands, his orders, his... sexual needs. It wasn't homosexuality, because Megalos didn't love Wallace. He only used Wallace as a way to get his sexual urges out to keep them from distracting him. If Wallace could sleep around the whole damn Hoenn region, then Megalos could let out his sexual frustrations on Wallace. It wasn’t drug trade, because Megalos gave him half the drugs he used. It was a mayoral prescription, a medicine to save Sootopolis City. Luckily, alcohol made Wallace forget things, so he wouldn't tattletale to others. And even if he did remember, he knew that everything Megalos did was for Sootopolis City. This was for power, for control, for Sootopolis City.

Wallace didn't seem to like Ren yet, even when she started to flirt with him before their battle. Wasn’t he supposed to be a slut? He flirted with women and men and whatever those other made up genders were, but as soon as his future wife stepped in and flirted back, he got all quiet? He slept with that bird whore from Fortree City, but he wouldn't sleep with someone who could actually make a good, respectable wife? He slept with that Devon slut, but he wouldn’t marry a woman who was just as rich and influential? He let other rich folks flirt with him, he let Megalos have sex with him, so why was Ren different? Ren would have to teach him to love her, but that was fine. He would learn. He would learn what was right for Sootopolis City. He learned quickly.

Stronger measures would need to be taken. Ren knew how to make Wallace love her.

-

A crowd had formed outside of Juan’s estate. Far to the side, Ren was trying to fight her way out of the grip of Officer Jenny, kicking and screaming and shrieking.

“Out of the way! Out of the way!”

Several paramedics ran out the door with a gurney. Megalos caught a glimpse of the person laying on it: Wallace, his face pale, his mouth and shirt messy with blood and vomit, eyes barely open. He looked like one of those drug addicts Megalos would arrest.

He disappeared into the water ambulance. The doors shut, and the ambulance sped off. The stark red and blue lights slowly faded, dimmer and dimmer and dimmer… until the night became dark again, filled with the whispers of the onlookers:

“What did Ren do to him?!”

“Damn, he must have gotten really drunk.”

“Guess he had it coming for acting and dressing the way he does.”

"You think he got into a fight?"

Some distance away from the crowd, Juan stood alone, staring in the direction the ambulance had disappeared. With his back away from Megalos, it was hard to tell what he was thinking or feeling.

Megalos stood still for a long time, long enough to see the crowd disperse, long enough to realize that he and Juan were left alone, long enough to see the police boat drive off, long enough to see Juan walk off.

Megalos was alone, alone to ponder his next move. What people would he have to pay to keep this scandal out of the press? What strings would he have to pull to keep his position? What lengths would he have to go to get Wallace back or, if Wallace died, find a replacement? Maybe that niece of his could be pulled from her kiddie Contests and replace him. A woman could market her beauty. Or maybe he could find another young boy at the University of Sootopolis City or Upper Sootopolis City’s grammar school. A man would be preferable to a woman. Whoever the replacement was, they would have to be perfect. Everything had to be perfect.

Because Megalos was a perfect mayor. Megalos was a perfect mayor. MEGALOS WAS A PERFECT MAYOR.
 
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(just a heads up, nbd + I'm not personally hurt in any way by this, but you might want to update the cw tag at the main post to specifically mention slurs/the f-word. fwiw you do a super considerate job of tagging incredibly aggressively/comprehensively, and I think that's rad.)

Pano can confirm that I have a godlike habit of telling her something like "gee I wish we had more insight into X" immediately before a huge chapter on X, and I'm glad that I can continue the trend on with you. Megalos ahoy.

So all that said, knowing full-well what I said in the previous review--I think you nail the tone of what a sleazebag Megalos is, lmaooo. The first section is really effective at setting up his excuse systems and the ease with which he passes blame. "I just got elected but all the good shit was me and all the bad shit was the other guy, thanks", oof. I also really liked lines like "but the light only intensified the shadows". I think it really works with this running theme here of pursuing perfection constantly and never being satisfied with what you've got; even success just makes you feel like more of a failure. It's an oddly humanizing sentiment (albeit briefly; man's a dick) and I'm able to see how/why Wallace ends up taking so many cues from him. The last few chapters have been interesting since we start branching into other character's heads, and I really wasn't expecting the Megalos POV but in hindsight I should've. It adds a lot here! "the game to save Sootopolis city" is a really metal line.

As far as my previous comments--I do still think that the escalation to villain territory in the previous chapters is a bit much and could be dialed back a hair, but I think this chapter helps patch a lot of things. If I'd read the whole thing in one sitting I think I would've had an easier time. I do think there's a case to be made for not really showing the degree of Megalos's cruelty, specifically the physical assault, until this chapter (instead mostly relying on Wallace's perception of him)--sort of how a horror movie builds suspense by not showing the monster for a while, you can get a lot of mileage by showing the aftermath of a character before actually meeting them. Idk, just food for thought. This is a really chunky chapter comparatively and I think it adds a lot of depth. I love with alt-POV chapters start completing other parts of characters; this was a really cool aspect of your drabble collection and I'm glad that it's coming back here.

lil' Dorian flashback is really neat too. I liked how he's graceful and proud of his defeat, more focused on what he learned and what he was able to teach in turn, and how Megalos is just like ERROR DOES NOT COMPUTE. Bookends really nicely with Megalos not being able to understand Dorian's sobriety metaphor; how could anyone possibly learn from their mistakes by accepting that part of themselves and then striving to change??? Flashback-Juan is also nice to see, and in general I enjoyed seeing Megalos actually getting challenged by adults since so far he's just been bullying kids. I'm curious what happened between the Juan/Megalos argument scene and the present day--Juan seems to realize that Megalos is actual poison and isn't afraid to stand up to him + doesn't really bow to the same kind of political pressure that Megalos is used to exerting, so I'm curious why Juan would let Wallace anywhere near this guy.

Curious about his fascination with Wallace getting married + the absolute necessity of woman=perfect accessory and yet not a word about a wife of his own.

Although I am left feeling a bit of a disconnect/not understanding his full arc here, I think. Early on it seems like he's way more prone to ignoring/dismissing anything that would conflict with his worldview that it's not perfect; later, it becomes a pronounced shift to wanting to destroy things that don't align with his worldview (almost literally, in the sense of trying to beat the imperfection out of Wallace). It feels like a pretty dynamic/dramatic shift but I can't really put my finger on what causes it? Since it seems like the first half "gaslight/ignore" response, if applied to the second half of the fic would just involve him ignoring Wallace and denying Wallace's existence, while the second half "punch the problem until it goes away" when applied to the first half would involve him crushing dissidence in Sootopolis with an iron fist or something. One of these responses is hugely avoidant and the other one is hugely confrontational, so it's odd to see both extremes exhibited by the same person. The boiling over scene mentions "fear", but so much of this chapter is (paradoxically) spent with Megalos refusing to acknowledge that anything is wrong, so it's hard to understand what he's actually afraid of.

I think since the idea that he's so hellbent on destroying imperfection (rather than ignoring it) is central to the story, an easy fix would be tweaking the beginning to show that he's willing to beat down political threats rather than ignore them, just like he's willing to beat down social threats (ie Wallace) rather than ignore them. Maybe just the ones that he knows he can get away with, which is why he can't fire Dorian but he doesn't hesitate to punch Wallace; he'll only pick fights he can win. So a more confrontational political approach--like, bussing those lazy homeless vagrants to other cities, being tough on crime, harsher DA’s, mandatory minimums for drug incarceration, etc—all that necessary evil stuff that other people are too cowardly to do even though it would totally fix everything. So it’s less that nothing is wrong and that Sootopolis is perfect; it’s more that Sootopolis isn’t perfect but only Megalos is brave enough to take the steps to make it so; everyone else is a bleeding-heart and can’t understand that sacrifice is necessary for a perfect world. This could even start out kind of gradual/kind of just parallel to some of our “accepted” civic policies (looking at you, homeless spikes) and then escalate into blatant cruelty as he gets more and more desperate. I think a more harsh approach across the political board would mesh his two worldviews together.

The church worldbuilding was also neat--love seeing your little alterations on Hoenn here. Awesome addition; keep chugging!

some prose thoughts:
Nicole's old hand me downs fit nicely.
you'll want "hand-me-downs" here
“Do you really need another daughter?”
"sir, ma'am, congratulations. you already have a daughter and as such your second child is worthless."
“If you raise you say another word or come any closer to my son, I won’t hesitate to use my Pokémon against you.”
I thought that this was a bit of an extreme reaction--not that Dorian shouldn't be jumping to defend his kid from this shitlord, but if he's not hesitating to use physical violence (since idk what else a Pokemon would do in this situation) against Megalos, it seems kind of ridiculous that he'd even bring his kid here in the first place? Even leaving Wallace under a tree seems safer than bringing him into a room with a man who Dorian wouldn't hesitate to physically assault.
He opened the door and left, slamming the door behind him. A few seconds passed. Then Megalos threw his chair into the wall.
Same hat as above--I think the contrast between these two would be a lot more clear if Dorian stays calm, doesn't threaten anything, doesn't slam the door on the way out.
Another part of him knew it was selfish to celebrate the death of two people.
I liked the implication here that he knows what he's doing is wrong; he just doesn't really care.
A young woman of black hair, turquoise eyes,
I think "with" would work better than "of" here.
If anything, Megalos thought, it will be brighter without the stain of their presence.
Looks like your italics got dropped?
In one corner of the cemetery, a woman kneeled before and stared at two headstones, a man—presumably her boyfriend—standing over her like he was Jirachi’s Angel of the Victims trying to comfort the grieving family.
I think there's a bit too much going on here in this sentence.
Megalos weaved through grieving family and friends, professional mourners, and clergymen to find Wallace, sitting alone with a Seaking, crying.
this is a dumb question and you're totally allowed to be like "fuck off kint they're magic", but I can't really picture a seaking sitting next to someone? since it's a fish
“Where is Juan?”

A man stepped out from the crowd, standing tall and silent.

“Matthias?” the man—Juan—called.
It felt a little redundant to clarify that he's both the man answering to "Juan" and that his name is Juan.
Silence. Juan would have been still as stone if he wasn’t shaking uncontrollably.
This felt like an oxymoron--"he would've been X if he weren't the exact opposite of X" is an odd format.
Matthias, I will not—will not—tolerate you using such vile, bigoted language against my student, much less behind his back!
I'm surprised that "much less behind his back" is what's setting Juan off here--since the implied better alternative to "behind his back" is shouting slurs to a thirteen year-old's face? Which I don't really see Juan advocating for.
and if his son went down the same or a worser path...
I think you'll want "worse" here
a wife to make Sootopolis City well respected in the Hoenn region.
you'll want "well-respected"
Melissa’s eyes quivered with tears, then—crying—she ran off. Wallace ran off in a different direction. This left Megalos alone.
I think them both crying and running off feels a bit dramatic, but idk, I've never had someone point-blank look at me and say I'm not wife material
If this spoiled little puppet was going to defy his commands and ruin Sootopolis City by being a slutty little brat
I'm not sure if the word "slutty" is working for me here--since specifically it's Wallace's refusal to get intimate that's constituting his defiance of Megalos' commands.

I think there's a potential argument that Megalos is using "slut" in the sense that Wallace is engaging in casual relationships and isn't interested in marriage (or at least the ones Megalos is pushing), which tracks but I think needs a few more sentences of explanation.
He and Ren were of the age of consent, and age gaps in marriages weren't uncommon Besides, Ren still had a few years ahead of her to try to conceive more children with Wallace.
dropped a period
Wallace didn't seem to like Ren yet, even when she started to flirt with him. Damn slut. He flirted with women and men and whatever, but he wouldn't flirt back to a woman who liked him?
I think the train of thought is a little muddled here, as with the first slut. I'd maybe rephrase to something like:

Wallace didn't seem to like Ren yet, even when she started to flirt with him. Wasn't he supposed to be a massive slut? He flirted with women and men and whatever else they called themselves, but now that there was someone respectable in front of him he couldn't flirt back to his future wife?

Ren having kids that are his age is super horrifying from a marriage perspective, but I’m curious where “presumed divorced/widowed” or “blended families” intersects with Megalos’s idea of the perfect wife—if he’s super traditional I’m surprised he’d advocate partnering up with (what traditionalists might view as; this is absolutely not my opinion) damaged goods.
"Matthias Megalos, you are under arrest for attempted sexual assault."

No. No. No. Megalos hadn't done anything wrong. Megalos hadn't done anything wrong. Megalos hadn't done anything wrong. He was doing what was best for Sootopolis City. Didn't anyone realize that?! Why wasn't Wallace going to jail for threatening Sootopolis City's dignity?!?!
I'm not entirely clear where Megalos is legally in the wrong here (morally, yes, it's very obvious)--but Wallace is of-age and technically not coerced (in a legal sense) so it's not really pimping; Megalos set this whole thing up but Ren's really the only person who did the assaulting as far as I can tell? Wallace's POV for this is understandably fuzzy and Megalos isn't retelling that part.

But like legally Megalos isn't really accountable for Ren's actions, since encouraging someone to do something doesn't make you legally (again, separately from morally) responsible for what they do next; even in the cases where it does, there’s usually an extended court case to prove culpability/being an accessory to the crime (i.e. if some transaction/quid pro quo between Ren/Megalos were revealed to imply that this was technically prostitution; fun hoist by his own petard if you go for the harsher version of Megalos tbh). They probably wouldn’t just make the arrest on the spot based on eyewitness accounts + technically Megalos really only hosted the party and set them up; he has plausible deniability that he didn’t think Ren would assault anyone. It’s kind of weird that this ends in a double arrest when there's a clear, witnessed individual perpetrator.
 
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I was going to read the last two chapters of "Heroes & Villains" but saw the disclaimer, so here I am.

Chapter 1

No commentary here. Though I imagine poor Wallace here is going to have a lifelong battle against perfectionism.

Chapter 2
  • Kurogane Cockburn. Cockburn. COCKBURN. WHO LISTENS TO A GUY NAMED COCKBURN?
  • This whole chapter is laced with anxiety, and I love it.
Chapter 3
  • Even more anxiety!

Okay, so I don't really much to say, lol. But it's certainly interesting to see the characters you love with a different take. While "Heroes & Villains" is sillier and more lighthearted, "I'm a Marionette" is more tense and distressful. It shows Wallace raised and trained to be the best that Sootopolis has to offer but is forced to meet unrealistic expectations (including those he placed upon himself) and cope with his spiraling depression. I'm hoping to see Wallace's relationship explored further with his sister Nicole, father Megalos and the rest of his family. Perhaps a way to break away from the grip of his father and the high society of Sootopolis.
 
Hiya, it's been a while! Glad to be back.
Hi there! Sorry for the late response, in part from things mentioned in DMs, in part the fact that I dropped C13 and needed to wait to respond to that, in part fffffffffffffrick mobile while spending time with family.
I admit that I always struggle a little in saying thoughts about this specific flavor of fic--Aether sorta touched on a similar vein, but like, if I don't agree with your portrayal of depression or something, that doesn't really make it invalid; it just doesn't make it mine. This type of fic, where the focus is on purposefully flawed characters facing a lot of hard truths is sort of just inherently personal to the author and it's always hard for me as a reviewer to figure out how I want to approach the story on its own terms, and by extension, yours. One author who always writes "way too real shit" to another; I've been wanting to swing around to repay the favor but also wasn't sure when I'd be in the right headspace for things.
That’s perfectly understandable, friend. * Raises glass * To authors who write way too real shit.
'cause shit hits really hard in this one. It's nice to read this after your drabble collection; "who's Megalos? I wish we got to see more of him"; past!me is a fucking idiot, my god.
They always ask "who the fuck is Megalos" but never "should we know who the fuck Megalos is".
But without the constrains of being told as drabbles, and with the ability to focus more heavily on Wallace, I think I got a much better taste of what you were actually going for here, and I found this to be a really well-written story thus far.
:)
Normally with stories that I enjoy I use words like "fun", but I don't really think that applies here; this is one of those stories that I think is really well put together and touches on a lot of issues in a poignant/nuanced way; I hesitate to say "i enjoyed reading it" in the sense that this is the hurt part of hurt/comfort so it's mostly just been a lot of gut punches and not enjoyment so much as, ouch, no, goddamn ... all this to say, I think mission accomplished?
Mission accomplished. We'll get 'em again next time.
I do understand the stress of trying to put deeply personal things in fic, the stress of how others perceive your experiences/fictionalized experiences--all in all I think you make these struggles feel real and painful, but not in a way that overstays its welcome.
The stress didn't directly come from writing (I would write the original version of the fic when stressed lol), but yeah, cutting open my heart and laying it on the table is scary with the fear of someone's only takeaway being "0/10 a typo" or "I don't like this ship and you should feel bad for shipping it".
There were a few moments that I flagged when I was reading as like, oh god oh no.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing
In general you make really good use of Wallace as limited-third; we're stuck in his head and it's immensely clear that his perception of himself/the world isn't really okay, but his voice is the one he/we've got, so it's going to have to work (or it isn't).
Heck yeah, my limited POV stuff has helped me
I thought the opening scene with the beret was really solid, followed immediately by Wallace taking it off--this isn't a fic where someone puts a cute little hat on you and your problems are fixed with someone telling you that they care.
"Breaking news—wearing a beret cures depression"
There's a lot of details that just sell how oppressive and bleak Wallace's mindset is; how he can't remember when he last ate his favorite meal, the crippling logic of "well if it's not anorexia or bulimia, it's fine" and "well it could be worse; I could be an actual addict so a little substance abuse is fine"; the art was good and that was all that mattered; the pressure of being your ancestor's legacy ... I think you really capture a lot of difficult emotions in these, and the characterization is really solid.
"Oh, when the Orbeatles use LSD for art it's fine, but when I do it, it's bad?... And isn't it use to treat PTSD?"
"Wallace, I'm pretty sure it's a case by case basis, and in your case, it's probably not the best idea."
Emotions are really fucking complicated, especially when your brain wants to do a bad thing to you, so it makes up every excuse it can to justify that bad thing: "Oh I'm functional so it's not a problem. Oh I deserve it. Or it isn't X because I'm not Y." And when those gremlins start to sound rational... I'm gonna need more fanfiction therapy for this.
There's something uniquely bleak about going through a shit time as a young adult with minimal coping mechanisms and not being able to even understand how deep in the shit you are that I think you really nail down with these. I haven't struggled with the specific things that Wallace has, but you portray his mindset in a way that seems native to him (in the sense that while he's sitting down and explaining that vomiting is about control for him, it does genuinely feel like he's having to re-explain this to himself rather than to an audience), and it all really works for me imo. And I especially like how it's really unclear how much of this pressure is expected of Wallace and how much is projected--it's the subtle lies that build into the bigger ones, and those lines aren't really clear, and that's the problem but it's also the point.
I really like implications/stuff where there's more than meets the eyes, and I'm glad I was able to do that with this.
In light of this, let's talk antagonists vs villains real quick, specifically re: Megalos:

I've reached the point in my life where I can't really in goodfaith call a fictional character "cartoonishly evil" or "cartoonishly stupid" because I've seen enough real people do evil and stupid things that, idk, sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.
Friend, buddy, pal, big mood. Everything that happened in my life from 2019-2021 makes me believe that no evil character or tragic backstory can be "unrealistic".
So I think a better phrase is unnecessarily evil--is this action necessary to tell the story you want to tell, so to speak. In this case, the damage is mostly done with Megalos just ignoring Lisia's drawing, saying it's not important, throwing it aside (with the intent to throw it out later). Dude's a dick who doesn't care about kids with a heart of stone.
In this case, the more compelling idea to me was that he doesn't see the drawing the way Wallace sees it, nor does he understand what it actually means to Wallace. The emotional disconnect in this scene is more interesting imo, and just the facts that he can't recognize a) the value that Wallace places on art and b) the desire Wallace has to impress him personally already makes him out to be a formidable person emotionally. His way of thinking is abjectly antagonistic to Wallace's here, and is largely responsible for a lot of Wallace's issues now, and it's really clear when he decides the drawing is a waste of space that this is how the board is laid out and these are where all the characters stand on it.

But when he tears up the drawing and then throws it into the fire for good measure--this doesn't add much imo. The drawing is irreparably destroyed and we get a tangible sense of truly how few fucks Megalos gives about it, but I think just him rejecting it and saying he doesn't have time for childish conceits would have as much of an emotional impact (or perhaps more, since the behavior will seem less exaggerated) than him burning a kid's picture.
Good points. Very, very good points. I don't really have any profound responses, because your insights are profound enough. I'm gonna go back and tone down on his stuff.
And it's sort of up to you, of course--see above not about how reality is often stranger/eviler/stupider than fiction; I can't say with confidence that there isn't someone in the world who would burn crayon drawings if given the chance.
Even if there was someone in my life who burned my crayon drawings, I would feel really weird saying "well this was based on a thing in my life so you should FEEL BAD for personally attacking me and stealing my Oreos" because I've seen people do that before, and it feels really... guilt trippy? Like first of all, how is the reader supposed to know that if I don't put it in, say, an author's note? And second of all, if I did a writing/narrative thing wrong in a way that damages the story or characters, that means more to me than my pseudo therapy. Because after all, this is part processing and part "hey what if Wallace had a dark and troubled past" and part "I want to tell a good story".
I think it mostly depends on how you want to portray Megalos--if he's a cold, calculating guy who's got Sootopolis by the metaphorical balls of its public opinion, and he's socialiting with the best of the socialites or whatever--it does seem a little weird that he'd be so blatantly petty here. This action strikes me as someone who's more prone to giving into their emotions (I hate this waste of paper) rather than maintaining a facade, which seems like the opposite of Megalos's general role/advice for Wallace in the rest of the story, so it felt particularly weird to see him specifically doing this here.
"I hate this paper specifically. It offends my eyes."
And besides, he's got plenty of time to be evil in the sexual assault trial. Where he would, at least, have an excuse(*) for his shitty actions that's more complex than "I hate fun".
(*)I feel like I need to clarify that wanting your friends to not face jail time for sexually assaulting people and believing you have the wealth/power to do so is not a good reason and does make him a bad person. but as a character motivation it exists, is parseable, and is sadly indicative of a lot of people in the real world.
Totally get it. Writing C13 I was like “I hope nobody thinks I’m a bad person for writing bad people.”
And, hmm. I don't think I'd actually spend so much time typing this out if I didn't think you did a really good job of making the other characters antagonists in their own rights--they're definitely working in Wallace's best interest and they're trying to help him, but in the literary sense of "being against the protagonist", I think you do a really great job of showing how sometimes mental illness takes your friends and makes them enemies, and you show that in a way that hurts but is real.
YO. I did not even realize that they were antagonists in the literal sense. Someone pointed out how Nicole had good intentions and wants to help her younger brother, but because of how little she pries into his problems, she's unknowingly letting him spiral further. What's worse, when Steven/Winona/Nicole finally reach out, it's not a light reaching out through the darkness, it's betrayal. It's looking past his perfect image to see his flaws. It's destroying everything he's worked to build and preserve.
Wallace is of course the main antagonist of this story--which is why his friends acting in goodfaith is actually perceived as acting against him in the first place--and conceptually I think it works really, really well.
Mmmmmm yes being your own worst enemy.
It fucking hurts to see that Nicole's trying to cheer him up with food when food is such a huge issue for him; it's really sad to see Winona just run into a blank wall when she realizes how deeply compartmentalized Wallace's perception of abuse is. Steven and Juan don't even realize the extent to which they've inadvertently antagonized Wallace because in their eyes they're doing the right thing for him--which is such a real and insidious truth about mental illness; it makes you alienate your friends. Honestly before Megalos showed up I think you already had the compelling antagonists on the page in a rock-solid format, which is why Megalos showing up in person to be an actual villain threw me for a loop a little.
Subverting the "get a dollar every time someone says beauty or beautiful in my fics" trope by saying that things like this—mental illness making you think your friends are enemies, making you think that abuse is okay if it's towards you, making you think you're getting migraines and migraine vomiting because you're not making yourself sick enough—is just all saying that mental illness is really, really ugly. It tells you ugly lies about you and the people around you. It ruins your sense of self respect and makes you think everything you do and are is ugly. It's ugly, ugly, ugly.
And I think the seeds are there--Megalos, especially the perception we get of him from Wallace's general notes/fears about Megalos before Megalos shows up physically--is a really good foil to Wallace's inner voice of demanding to be perfect, of not being good enough. Megalos, unlike the others, doesn't think that Wallace is good enough, and even if you just left it at that I think he'd be a really compelling antagonist without just being an outright villain.
Like lines like these really drill home how much of his mindset has infected Wallace's here--don't you care for yourself, oof, my god. My heart dropped when I read this because honestly he reminds me of a lot of people who do think they're still acting in your best interests, and are trying to help you become your best self.
(And all of this would contrast really nicely with Wallace not really being able to discern if his actual friends are doing goodfaith efforts to help him :c)
Yes yes YES.
But on the flip side, I really don't know. There's something deeply cathartic about personifying your issues as a fictional character so you can take him to court or punch him in the face, and I don't really want to take that from you while touting literary structure or character arcs lol
The catharsis I get from having Megalos say and be things my brain gremlins (and, occasionally, real people) say to me or imply and then getting to kill him punch him is very... cathartic to say the least.
--your story isn't meant for me-the-individual-so it does feel weird to write long treatises on how much you should or shouldn't try to humanize this guy vs villifying him. Shitty people exist in the world and sometimes they exist without nuance, and in that case trying to empathize with them is almost counter-productive since the more necessary thing is to just take them out as quickly as possible before they can hurt anyone else. But I do think you really nailed the way that your own friends can be helpless to fix these things in a way that was really nuanced + delicate, so it was a little odd to see Megalos doing classic Disney villain stuff with the rest of these subtleties in the background.
At the same time, by putting this fic out online, it's meant for me and an audience, and that means writing a good story. I write stuff with characters going through hell knowing full well that I might never publish it. In publishing this, I know full well that it's more than just a catharsis.
I legit burst out laughing on this line. God. It hurts so hard to think about how your friends really care about you but are also going to just irreparably be themselves when you're hurting them by being hurt,,, anyway here's a meme to end off on a good note
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This meme lives rent free in my head, omigosh. Now all I can think of is Med Student!Steven being like "oh no you're bleeding! This reminds me of hematite, which was named after..."
some small prose thoughts--mostly just pulled these because in general you asked for them + are receptive to prose tweaks; overall I thought the tone was really snappy here and you nailed the third-limited narrator. tbh if you hadn't asked I wouldn't have really bothered flagging much since things read pretty smoothly.
Not going to reply to everything line by line. Just know that I have read all your stuff and used it to edit as I respond to this.
There are some words missing here in "my Goldeen and we". I'd also argue that it's kind of weird that she specifies "my Goldeen" and not Goldeen's name (since Wallace calls Milotic "Victoria" and in general the humans seem to treat the pokemon as friends rather than property), but I see why you're phrasing this as it is to avoid confusing the audience. Maybe something like
(or something. idk. I don't think I nailed your style 100% in that one but lol, such is life sometimes)
I think you got it pretty good, imo. I'm just going to change/add a few words here and there so it's not a direct copy.
Wasn't sure if this was an intentional typo (since people texting on phones leads to disaster and it would make perfect sense if Steven forgot a word lol); figured I'd flag it.
Steven: Oh shit oh shit oh shit—
I don't really follow the logistics of the three strike rule--this just seems generally so much less forgiving and arbitrary than "lose more than X% of your matches" and it feels a a little ridiculous/difficult to implement. Especially since, from a logistical standpoint, losing one match badly might incapacitate your best team members for a small amount of time, making you more likely to lose the next match, so things would understandably spiral really quickly in a way that this metric seems specifically geared to encourage? And tbh the solution is just to start taking fewer matches with longer breaks between (so that you can guarantee that your aces are always fresh or whatever)--which just generally seems to result in a system where gym leaders are intentionally spacing out matches (either because they're overworked college kids or for the reasoning above) and it'd just be harder to get a gym challenge in the first place?
So this is a carry over from the novel Pocket Monsters: The Animation (checking now, it's actually four losses in a row lol). In the book, it led to a lot of bribery lol. I’ll probably keep it in for now, but there was probably a lot of reform stuff in between the events of IAM and, say, ATAC that lead to .this rule being removed. For Hoenn, at least
(and there is of course a pretty sound dystopian/failed system version where for whatever reason, the gym system being broken like this is actually done on purpose and the endgoal is to churn through gym leaders as quickly as possible, but I don't really follow that with the worldbuilding as presented)
I also imagine this is a pre-reform thing for Hinode regions, but places like Galar probably don't have it.
broke: don't do worldbuilding; pokemon canon is flawless
woke: do pokemon worldbuilding for cool shit like giving rowlet a cute hat
bespoke: do pokemon worldbuilding and show that self medication is in fact even worse under futuristic healthcare
Oak: do pokemon worldbuilding by, every time you see a medicine or Grass type or crafting material, asking yourself "can I smoke this"
He's mentioned to be 19 somewhere else I think, so is the drinking age here 20? Wasn't sure what your intended math was to be (or tbf if 21 would be a realistic drinking age when they're all going out on joblike journeys at the age of 10, if that's also something you're rolling with)
Yeah it's 20. Japan's drinking age is 20. Greece's drinking age is 18 to, like, buy alcohol and drink it publicly. There's no age for drinking privately, but it's far, far more complicated than "oh five year olds can get drunk". Drunkenness is frowned upon, and the legal BAC limit before you're legally drunk is lower than in America.
"sir, ma'am, congratulations. there is no ethical consumption under capitalism and as such your child is worthless. also assigned male at birth."
This is my favorite running gag of yours on these reviews but the "also assigned male at birth" KILLED ME lol
in conclusion: oh no.
Oh no. (Also changed it so Megalos isn't going to jail. Yet.)

Aaaaaaaaand before I could even reply to the first review I published Chapter 13 and got another review.
(just a heads up, nbd + I'm not personally hurt in any way by this, but you might want to update the cw tag at the main post to specifically mention slurs/the f-word. fwiw you do a super considerate job of tagging incredibly aggressively/comprehensively, and I think that's rad.)
Fixed that as soon as I could. My apologies.
Pano can confirm that I have a godlike habit of telling her something like "gee I wish we had more insight into X" immediately before a huge chapter on X, and I'm glad that I can continue the trend on with you. Megalos ahoy.
...Can I have some lottery numbers
So all that said, knowing full-well what I said in the previous review--I think you nail the tone of what a sleazebag Megalos is, lmaooo. The first section is really effective at setting up his excuse systems and the ease with which he passes blame. "I just got elected but all the good shit was me and all the bad shit was the other guy, thanks", oof.
Gaslight all of Sootopolis City
Gatekeep Wallace because he isn't perfect
Girlboss women into the kitchen
I also really liked lines like "but the light only intensified the shadows". I think it really works with this running theme here of pursuing perfection constantly and never being satisfied with what you've got; even success just makes you feel like more of a failure. It's an oddly humanizing sentiment (albeit briefly; man's a dick) and I'm able to see how/why Wallace ends up taking so many cues from him. The last few chapters have been interesting since we start branching into other character's heads, and I really wasn't expecting the Megalos POV but in hindsight I should've. It adds a lot here!
I really wanted to highlight the similarities between Megalos and Wallace with this chapter. Both want to do what's best for Sootopolis City. Both strive for perfection. Both see everyone else as antagonists in one way or another.
"the game to save Sootopolis city" is a really metal line.
What if I made a band named after this lol just kidding unless
As far as my previous comments--I do still think that the escalation to villain territory in the previous chapters is a bit much and could be dialed back a hair, but I think this chapter helps patch a lot of things. If I'd read the whole thing in one sitting I think I would've had an easier time. I do think there's a case to be made for not really showing the degree of Megalos's cruelty, specifically the physical assault, until this chapter (instead mostly relying on Wallace's perception of him)--sort of how a horror movie builds suspense by not showing the monster for a while, you can get a lot of mileage by showing the aftermath of a character before actually meeting them. Idk, just food for thought.
Still working to tone done stuff and debating if the first instance of depicted physical abuse (Chapter 6, I think?) should either be removed or edited so it better implies that Wallace is used to the abuse and it's just a "all right you know the drill" kind of thing.
This is a really chunky chapter comparatively and I think it adds a lot of depth. I love with alt-POV chapters start completing other parts of characters; this was a really cool aspect of your drabble collection and I'm glad that it's coming back here
The chinkiest chapter I've written for the Facadeverse lol.
lil' Dorian flashback is really neat too. I liked how he's graceful and proud of his defeat, more focused on what he learned and what he was able to teach in turn, and how Megalos is just like ERROR DOES NOT COMPUTE. Bookends really nicely with Megalos not being able to understand Dorian's sobriety metaphor; how could anyone possibly learn from their mistakes by accepting that part of themselves and then striving to change???
Megalos: What?????? You can learn from your mistakes??????????????? False.
Flashback-Juan is also nice to see, and in general I enjoyed seeing Megalos actually getting challenged by adults since so far he's just been bullying kids.
"Matthias Megalos, you abused and harassed a queer, probably neurodivergent, mentally ill minor, you hang out with sexual assaulters, but worst of all, you tore up a child's drawing? Evil."
I'm curious what happened between the Juan/Megalos argument scene and the present day--Juan seems to realize that Megalos is actual poison and isn't afraid to stand up to him + doesn't really bow to the same kind of political pressure that Megalos is used to exerting, so I'm curious why Juan would let Wallace anywhere near this guy.
I probably should fix this to make it more clear, but it's... complicated. Between Megalos's political stance and a small case of the cycle of abuse, it's really, really complicated.
Curious about his fascination with Wallace getting married + the absolute necessity of woman=perfect accessory and yet not a word about a wife of his own.
Well there is one mention of Megalos's wife:
But Megalos wasn’t a bad mayor. He didn’t beat his wife, and he only spanked his children when they misbehaved. He was a good person. He was a good mayor.
Although I am left feeling a bit of a disconnect/not understanding his full arc here, I think. Early on it seems like he's way more prone to ignoring/dismissing anything that would conflict with his worldview that it's not perfect; later, it becomes a pronounced shift to wanting to destroy things that don't align with his worldview (almost literally, in the sense of trying to beat the imperfection out of Wallace). It feels like a pretty dynamic/dramatic shift but I can't really put my finger on what causes it? Since it seems like the first half "gaslight/ignore" response, if applied to the second half of the fic would just involve him ignoring Wallace and denying Wallace's existence, while the second half "punch the problem until it goes away" when applied to the first half would involve him crushing dissidence in Sootopolis with an iron fist or something. One of these responses is hugely avoidant and the other one is hugely confrontational, so it's odd to see both extremes exhibited by the same person. The boiling over scene mentions "fear", but so much of this chapter is (paradoxically) spent with Megalos refusing to acknowledge that anything is wrong, so it's hard to understand what he's actually afraid of.
I think since the idea that he's so hellbent on destroying imperfection (rather than ignoring it) is central to the story, an easy fix would be tweaking the beginning to show that he's willing to beat down political threats rather than ignore them, just like he's willing to beat down social threats (ie Wallace) rather than ignore them. Maybe just the ones that he knows he can get away with, which is why he can't fire Dorian but he doesn't hesitate to punch Wallace; he'll only pick fights he can win. So a more confrontational political approach--like, bussing those lazy homeless vagrants to other cities, being tough on crime, harsher DA’s, mandatory minimums for drug incarceration, etc—all that necessary evil stuff that other people are too cowardly to do even though it would totally fix everything. So it’s less that nothing is wrong and that Sootopolis is perfect; it’s more that Sootopolis isn’t perfect but only Megalos is brave enough to take the steps to make it so; everyone else is a bleeding-heart and can’t understand that sacrifice is necessary for a perfect world. This could even start out kind of gradual/kind of just parallel to some of our “accepted” civic policies (looking at you, homeless spikes) and then escalate into blatant cruelty as he gets more and more desperate. I think a more harsh approach across the political board would mesh his two worldviews together.
Mmmm good point. I'll go back and fix that.
The church worldbuilding was also neat--love seeing your little alterations on Hoenn here. Awesome addition; keep chugging!
Chugga chugga choo choo
I like developing the religions of Hoenn! Now if only I could apply that energy to actually writing other stuff.
"sir, ma'am, congratulations. you already have a daughter and as such your second child is worthless."
"...And you're the only doctor out insurance covers, right?"
I thought that this was a bit of an extreme reaction--not that Dorian shouldn't be jumping to defend his kid from this shitlord, but if he's not hesitating to use physical violence (since idk what else a Pokemon would do in this situation) against Megalos, it seems kind of ridiculous that he'd even bring his kid here in the first place? Even leaving Wallace under a tree seems safer than bringing him into a room with a man who Dorian wouldn't hesitate to physically assault.
Same hat as above--I think the contrast between these two would be a lot more clear if Dorian stays calm, doesn't threaten anything, doesn't slam the door on the way out.
Good point. Will fix.
this is a dumb question and you're totally allowed to be like "fuck off kint they're magic", but I can't really picture a seaking sitting next to someone? since it's a fish
I'm too nice to say "fuck off kint they're magic" but, like, fish are weird in Pokémon.
download (6).jpeg

This felt like an oxymoron--"he would've been X if he weren't the exact opposite of X" is an odd format.
I do this a lot don't I.
I'm surprised that "much less behind his back" is what's setting Juan off here--since the implied better alternative to "behind his back" is shouting slurs to a thirteen year-old's face? Which I don't really see Juan advocating for.
Ooh that's true. Fixed that.
I think them both crying and running off feels a bit dramatic, but idk, I've never had someone point-blank look at me and say I'm not wife material
Oh, to have Wallace look you dead in the eye and tell you that you are not a waifu
Ren having kids that are his age is super horrifying from a marriage perspective, but I’m curious where “presumed divorced/widowed” or “blended families” intersects with Megalos’s idea of the perfect wife—if he’s super traditional I’m surprised he’d advocate partnering up with (what traditionalists might view as; this is absolutely not my opinion) damaged goods.
Older than him technically, since he's 19 and they're in their early twenties.

For the "divorced/widowed" wife thing, 1. She presumably doesn't have sex outside of marriage, 2. she has experience with being married to at least two guys, so she knows how to be a good wife and have a husband, and 3. she's rich. Already better than Winona, who has sex outside of marriage, doesn't even know how to cook like a good housewife, and is lower middle class. Virgins around Wallace's age or even just virgins weren't cutting it, so Megalos needed someone with experience in handling men.*

*I should clarify that these points do not reflect my opinions on Ren; these reflect the reasoning Megalos went through in choosing Ren as a wife. Ren is not a good wife at all. Megalos is wrong. Sexual assault is bad.
I'm not entirely clear where Megalos is legally in the wrong here (morally, yes, it's very obvious)--but Wallace is of-age and technically not coerced (in a legal sense) so it's not really pimping; Megalos set this whole thing up but Ren's really the only person who did the assaulting as far as I can tell? Wallace's POV for this is understandably fuzzy and Megalos isn't retelling that part.

But like legally Megalos isn't really accountable for Ren's actions, since encouraging someone to do something doesn't make you legally (again, separately from morally) responsible for what they do next; even in the cases where it does, there’s usually an extended court case to prove culpability/being an accessory to the crime (i.e. if some transaction/quid pro quo between Ren/Megalos were revealed to imply that this was technically prostitution; fun hoist by his own petard if you go for the harsher version of Megalos tbh). They probably wouldn’t just make the arrest on the spot based on eyewitness accounts + technically Megalos really only hosted the party and set them up; he has plausible deniability that he didn’t think Ren would assault anyone. It’s kind of weird that this ends in a double arrest when there's a clear, witnessed individual perpetrator.
My dad is a lawyer, but uh...

Me: Hey dad! If a mayor in Greece or Japan lets a woman coerce a person half her age into marriage, sex, and having kids, is he assaulting by proxy or anything?
Dad: Torchic I'm an American lawyer. Why are you asking?

I was going to read the last two chapters of "Heroes & Villains" but saw the disclaimer, so here I am.
Oh hi there! Fancy seeing you here.
Chapter 1

No commentary here. Though I imagine poor Wallace here is going to have a lifelong battle against perfectionism.
huehuehue
Kurogane Cockburn. Cockburn. COCKBURN. WHO LISTENS TO A GUY NAMED COCKBURN?
Gotta love names to run away from real fast.
This whole chapter is laced with anxiety, and I love it.

Even more anxiety!
Okay, so I don't really much to say, lol. But it's certainly interesting to see the characters you love with a different take. While "Heroes & Villains" is sillier and more lighthearted, "I'm a Marionette" is more tense and distressful.
Yeah that ties in the the PHAV author's note. I'm trying to tone down on the darker elements of that, leaving angst to Facadeverse fics.
It shows Wallace raised and trained to be the best that Sootopolis has to offer but is forced to meet unrealistic expectations (including those he placed upon himself) and cope with his spiraling depression. I'm hoping to see Wallace's relationship explored further with his sister Nicole, father Megalos and the rest of his family. Perhaps a way to break away from the grip of his father and the high society of Sootopolis.
Relationships will be explored indeed (though I should note that Megalos isn't Wallace's biological father—abusive father figure maybe, but they aren't related.
 
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When will you finally grow up? Just what is growing up, anyway?
Arguments, mentions of homophobia and transphobia, implied eating disorders, anxiety, mental illness, and sexual assault, all from the perspective of a child.

Lisia liked a lot of things. She liked chocolate. Milk chocolate, not the icky chocolate that grown-ups ate. She liked fluffy, pretty birds. She liked shiny, colourful gems. She liked her family.

Most of all, Lisia liked Uncle Wall. He was good at Contests and Pokémon battles. He was good at makeup and fashion and art. He was smart and brave and kind. He was better at teaching Lisia Chrysosian than her Chrysosian teacher, old Dr. Gounaris and his old Grumpig. Uncle Wall was perfect. Lisia was so lucky to have such a wonderful uncle!

But sometimes, Uncle Wall and Mamá would argue. Sometimes they would argue about things Lisia could understand. Like college stuff. Other times, either from the grown-up stuff they were arguing about or the grown-up Chrysosian they were using, she couldn’t understand what they were saying. In either case, she would sometimes yell at them back to try to stop them from arguing. Lisia didn’t like fighting. Weren’t Mamá and Uncle Wall siblings? Didn’t Mamá and Uncle Wall love each other? Why were they fighting?

After one particularly bad fight that led to Uncle Wall slamming the door to the guest bedroom, Lisia marched into the kitchen, stormed right up to Mamá and shouted, “Why do you have to fight with Uncle Wall?!”

Mamá didn’t respond. There were tears in her eyes. That made Lisia sad too. That made her feel sad about being so mean.

“I’m worried about your uncle, Lisia,” Mamá cried. “I’m so… so worried about him…” Mamá fell into sobs, unable to speak.

Táta stared from the doorway to the kitchen. The room was small enough that he could reach over to take Lisia’s hand.

“Lisia,” he said in a cheerful voice, “let’s go to the museum.”

Pouting, Lisia followed him to the other side of the kitchen and to the front door. She didn’t speak to Táta.

Táta tried smiling at her, but she glared back. How could he be so happy? Uncle Wall and Mamá had gotten into a fight! Fights were bad!

“Lisia, what’s wrong?”

“Why do Mamá and Uncle Wall have to fight? You said that only kids get into stupid fights.”

Táta looked up at the sky. He was silent for a few seconds.

“Loukia.” Wow. Táta and Mamá almost never used Lisia’s Hinodego name. Proyiayia and Dóro Pappoú sometimes did, but they... didn't seem to like Táta and Mamá, so maybe it was a bad thing when people used her Hinodego name.

Actually, from the niceness of Táta's voice and expression... maybe not. Maybe it was just serious.

“Nicole and Wallace’s family have been through… a lot," Táta continued, "and sometimes that makes them get tense and lash out at each other. Nicole’s got a whole bunch of family issues, and Wallace has his job and his studies to become a Lorekeeper and school—”

“Uncle Wall is really smart in school,” Lisia chimed in. “He says he’s doing double classes. That’s double smart!”

Táta chuckled and looked down at Lisia. “Double major, yes. Religious Studies and Art History.”

“What’s a major?”

“It’s where you take a lot of classes on one subject, until you become really good at that subject.”

“Wow! Uncle Wall is smarter than I thought!”

“Sure is.” Táta's smile fell. “But sometimes smart people push themselves too much to do big things. Nicole wants him to take it easy, but…” He sighed. “…the two’s needs and wants can sometimes conflict with one another.”

By then, the two had arrived at the Sootopolis Museum. Lisia beamed with happiness. The museum! The museum had all kinds of pretty paintings and sculptures. Lisia liked the museum…

…but she liked going to the museum with Uncle Wall.

-

“Uncle Wall, how do you do makeup?”

Uncle Wall looked up from the book on his desk and down at Lisia. He looked tired, like he needed a nap.

“Hm? Oh! Makeup. Right.” He looked at the papers and books spread on his desk. “All right, Lisia, how about I teach you about makeup once I finish this schoolwork?”

“Okay!”

Lisia hopped onto Uncle Wall’s bed to wait for him to be done. Part of her was excited. Uncle Wall was really good at makeup. He was also good at fashion. He wore pretty shirts and pretty pants and pretty dresses—well, maybe he only wore dresses at home. Mr. Megalos didn't seem to like it when Uncle Wall wore dresses, and the extended family didn't seem to either. They always gave Uncle Wall and Lisia and her parents weird looks. All the time. Maybe they just didn’t like Lisia and Uncle Wall and Mamá and Táta.

But another part of Lisia was annoyed. Uncle Wall was always busy. He was always away at the Sootopolis City Gym or some meeting or school. Even when he was at home, he was too busy with paperwork to spend time with Lisia. Couldn't he at least bring Lisia along to some of his stuff? Why couldn't they do the things they used to—playing games, drawing, and making dinner with Mamá and Táta?

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The clock counted the seconds and minutes. Uncle Wall scribbled frantically with shaky hands and tapped his fingers and pulled at his hair and bit his fingers… until his hands shook so much that he couldn’t hold his pencil anymore. It fell and rolled off the desk.

“Uncle Wall? Are you okay?”

"I'm fi—" Uncle Wall looked over at Lisia. The anger melted from his face, replaced by a smile. “I… Yes, I’m okay.”

Lisia stared at him with shock. Was he mad at her? No, he couldn't be. Maybe he was mad at his work. He seemed okay now. “Is your work stressing you out?”

“No, I just can’t get myself to focus." He closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. "Part of the reason might be that I have a date later.”

“A date! Where are you and Auntie Win going?” Auntie Win was really cool. She was a Flying type trainer, and she and her Pokémon looked so pretty whenever they battled. Best of all, Winona always got Lisia little presents, like candy or bird plushies.

Uncle Wall sighed, shaking his head. “It’s… not with Winona.”

“Is it Uncle Steve?” Uncle Steve was also cool. He was the Champion, and he was passionate about stones and knew a lot about them. Sometimes, he would find pretty rocks and give them to Lisia.

Uncle Wall shook his head again. “He’s rich all right, but if Mayor Megalos found out I was with a man…”

Lisia didn’t understand grown-ups sometimes. Why did some of them hate people who liked people of the same gender? Why did some of them hate people who dressed in certain ways? Why couldn’t grown-ups just get along? And why did Wallace put up with people like that when he liked boys and dressed in ways that they didn't like?

“It’s with someone you wouldn’t know,” Uncle Wall explained as he stared at his schoolwork. “I’m hoping Megalos doesn’t push it further, but…”

Eventually, Uncle Wall stood up. He smiled and looked at Lisia. “Ah heck, I don’t think I’ll be able to get this work done by tonight, and I want to have time before my date to spend time with my favourite niece…”

He picked Lisia up. She giggled as he spun her around in the air. She was flying! She was flying! The two laughed together. They were happy. They were happy!

Uncle Wall eventually stopped spinning Lisia and put her back down on the ground. Still laughing a bit, he did a pose—like one of the poses he did in Contests.

“Now,” he said, pointing his finger, “why don’t I teach you about makeup?”

-

“Uncle Wall?”

Uncle Wall stood up and stormed out of the kitchen, slamming the door behind him. Mamá raced after him. She left the door open behind her.

“Wallace—”

“I’M FINE!”

Oh no. They were fighting again. They were fighting again. Lisia covered her ears with her hands. Wasn’t it supposed to be a happy night? Wasn’t it supposed to be a happy night of drawing with Uncle Wall? Why was he mad? Why was he mad?!

The phone was dangling from the wall. Someone had to talk to Uncle Steve on the phone.

Lisia hopped out of her chair and walked over to do just that.

"Hello? Uncle Steve?"

"Is this Lisia?" the voice on the phone asked.

"Yeah."

"Where's Nicole?"

"She's fighting with Uncle Wall."

"God damn it..." Uncle Steve mumbled. "Why did I say anything... Lisia, can you do me a favour? Can you… I don’t know, hug Wallace for me? Maybe draw some nice pictures with him when he gets back home from his party?"

"Sure!"

"Lisia, can I have the phone?" Mamá was back. Her voice was cracking, and her eyes were red with tears.

"Mamá?" Lisia asked as she handed the phone to her. "What's wrong?"

The door was still open. Uncle Wall was gone. Lisia wanted to cry. How was she supposed to watch him now?

"Come on, Lisia," Mamá said. She was crying, but she was also smiling. Why was she smiling?! “Why don't we draw—"

“Only Uncle Wall draws with me!”

“Lisia—”

"NO!"

Lisia pulled her arm away from Mamá and ran off. She ran up the steps and slammed the door to her bedroom and hid under the covers to cry.

Why were Mamá and Uncle Wall mad at each other? Why did Uncle Steve say to hug Uncle Wall? What was wrong with Uncle Wall?!?!

There was a knock on the door. Or rather, a tap. Lisia looked up. It seemed to be coming from the bottom end of the door.

With shaky legs, she walked over to open the door.

(“I heard the yelling,”) Duncan said. (“Lots of triangles were thrown around.”)

Lisia smiled. Duncan always knew when to come to the rescue.

“Is Uncle Wall okay?” Lisia sniffled.

Duncan sighed. (“Well, Wallace seems like a big block to me: he’s very hard to move or read. And then he grows spikes when he gets stressed out.”) He looked back up at Lisia. (“You’re worried about him, aren’t you?”)

“I just want him to be okay.”

(“Tell you what: I’ll talk to him after he comes back home. But right now… do you want a hug?”)

Lisia smiled as she picked up Duncan and squeezed him. For as long as she could remember, Duncan had been there for her.

“Duncan, why are grownups so…” Lisia sighed.

(“I’m a grownup, and not even I know. Maybe humans are just different from Spheal. Humans are… strange. I think once in a while, they should roll around like cylinders. You learn a lot when you roll on the ground.”)

Lisia sat back on her bed. “It’s hard being small. The world’s so big and scary… and we’re so small.”

Duncan patted Lisia’s arm with a flipper. (“It might not be the same thing, but Spheal used to make fun of me because I can’t evolve, no matter how strong or how old I get. I was surrounded by Sealeo and Walrein, and I felt… very small.

(“But then I learned that being small isn’t so bad! I can go into places that others can’t! I can help people by letting them hug me! I’m… my own special mon, my own, unique shape! And maybe… maybe you have your own Lisia shape, a shape that will grow as you do, and even once your body stops evolving! Even now when you’re small, you can make a big difference!”)

Well… that was true. Duncan was small, but he gave so much joy to so many people. Lisia was small, but she could… she could also bring joy! She could make everyone smile again!

-

Lisia woke up to the sound of her mother screaming.

She sounded like one of those old ladies that wailed and cried at funerals. Did someone die? Did Uncle Wall die?!?!

Mamá and Táta were on the floor, Mamá sobbing in Táta's arms. What was wrong? What was wrong? WHAT WAS WRONG?!?!?!?!

"Should I call your grand—"

"No! No! No!" Mamá shrieked. "You can't tell them! You can't tell any of them! You can't! You can't! You can't!"

She buried her face against Táta’s chest.

"Should I tell Steven and Winona?" Táta asked.

Mamá nodded at that.

"What should I tell them?"

Mamá sat up. She was shaking. "Tell them that Wallace is in the hospital for malnutrition. Tell them that Wallace almost got..." she gulped, shaking her head. "They should probably know."

Hospital? Uncle Wall was in the hospital?! When Lisia was a little kid, Uncle Wall would sometimes have to go to the hospital when he was sick. He still got sick a lot, but never enough to go to the hospital. It was always something minor like a tummy ache or a headache. Was he sick enough to be in the hospital now? Was that why he was so angry? And what did he almost get?

"I'll take care of Lisia," Táta whispered, holding Mamá close so he could rock her and pat her back. "You should go to Sootopolis City to see him. Leave all the calls to me.”

"I'll kill them!" Mamá screamed into Táta's shirt. “I'll kill them for what they did to Wallace! I'll kill them! Kill them! KILL THEM!!!"

"Lisia?"

Táta was looking up at Lisia. She froze. Táta whispered something to Mamá, who then also looked up at Lisia.

"M-Mamá? T-Táta?" Lisia's voice trembled. "What's going on? What happened to Uncle Wall?"

"Everything's okay." Táta smiled, but even Lisia could tell it was fake. "Everything's okay. Just... say a prayer tonight for Wallace."

They were lying. Why would Lisia's parents lie?

Nothing was okay. Nothing was okay.
 
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