title: Mega!
fandom: Free! (Pokémon XY fusion)
characters/pairings: Makoto/Haru/Rin, Professor Sycamore
rating: G/Teen
warnings: none
summary: Rin, Haru, and Makoto, a fateful encounter during an important journey.
notes: for power dynamics on my trope bingo card. based on Gin's pokémon fusion with mega evols. thankyouGin!!! it's based on, but i took a few liberties, so. ♥

They'd agreed to meet there, in the grass among the rocks of Route 10. Two weeks ago, their paths has separated at this spot. There was, therefore, nothing surprising about this meeting, and yet it wasn't how Makoto had expected things to go. He'd thought there might be some friendly chitchat, maybe some comparing pokédexes and telling stories of where they'd been and what they'd done. He'd thought maybe they'd wait for Haru.

"C'mon, let's go! Let's get this battle started!" Rin taunted him. He and his mega garchomp, Baby Tooth, had the same expression on their faces, and it didn't bode well for Makoto or his mega ampharos, Kitty.

Baby Tooth growled excitedly, leaning toward Makoto and his Kitty. Kitty proceeded to cry out and jump - all 140 cm and nearly 62 kg of him - right up on Makoto's shoulders.

Makoto hunched down, by necessity, and held his hand out. "Wait, Rin! Wait!"

"What?" Rin scowled, and Baby Tooth bared his teeth. More.

"Sh-shouldn't we wait for Haru? I mean..." Makoto struggled under the weight of his Kitty and his desire to maybe dash behind that rock.

"A pokémon battle is a duel! Let's go, Makoto, you can't say you're not ready! Kitty's already mega evolved and everything!" Rin edged closer, and Baby Tooth was definitely grinning, Makoto could tell.

This wasn't good.

"If Makoto's not ready, maybe I'll do. Go, Saba!"

Rin and Makoto both turned to look at the same time, seeing Haru's shiny gyarados, Saba, explode with power as he mega evolved.

Rin and Baby Tooth both took a step back in uncanny unison. "Wh- wait..." Rin stuttered.

Haru wasn't waiting. "Saba, Hydro Pump!"

Baby Tooth crossed his arm swords over his face, cringing from the memory of too many hits from Saba's Hydro Pump or Surf. As intimidating as Saba normally was with his rare fire-engine red color, seemingly a signal of his temper, in his Mega form, Saba was even more vicious-looking, and he let loose his Hydro Pump with dizzying accuracy.

Baby Tooth didn't stand a chance.

"No!" Rin wailed, falling to his knees next to his beloved Baby Tooth.

Kitty jumped off of Makoto's shoulders, raring to go.

"Great!" Makoto beamed. "It's Haru 'n' me, then, right?" Kitty's white fur seemed to sparkle with anticipation.

Saba reared back and Haru looked at Makoto, stunned.

"Kitty! Thunderbolt!" Makoto ordered. Kitty was quick and vicious in his attack. A streak of lightening zoomed to Saba, who twitched and floundered, reminiscent of his early days as a magikarp.

Saba's eyes rolled back, and then he flopped to the ground with a mighty thud, rocking the ancient stones all around them.

"Good job, Kitty!" Makoto crowed. Kitty bounced around happily, his head bopping back and forth, sending his white mane shimmering in the sunshine. "Yes! This round goes to me, then, right?"

Rin and Haru looked at Makoto and then at each other. They both sighed, their hands on their favorite pokémon.

"Idiot. If you hadn't choked on me, Baby Tooth woulda knocked out your Kitty," Rin grumbled.

"I still would have beat you," Haru glared at Rin.

Rin glared right back.

"Eh, I'm sorry, guys!" Makoto didn't look or sound sorry as he rubbed Kitty's head.

"Whatever," Rin huffed. "I'm out of revives, you know! Damn..."

"Aw... well, we're going to the town, right? Geosenge City is just a little way..." Makoto pointed off in the direction of the geologically-inclined tourist stop.

"Man, I got stuff I wanna get back to," Rin complained.

"I'm going back to Route 8," Haru murmured as he rifled through his bag.

"Are you wearing your jammers?" Rin looked at Haru, puzzled.

Haru just continued to look through his bag.

Rin looked at Makoto and rolled his eyes. "Fuck, you've become one of those swimmers, haven't you?"

"I've always been a swimmer, moron, I'm interested in water pokémon," he pulled out a max revive.

"Wait, wait, let's just go to Geosenge City! Just for a bit!" Makoto placated Haru. "We'll go to the Pokémon Center, we can have a nice picnic lunch with the rocks, maybe... maybe even spend the night at the hotel. Hotel Marine Snow is really nice..." Makoto cajoled.

Haru and Rin looked at each other.

"Makoto..." Haru started.

"And, and, then you don't have to waste your precious items, and, and, I got a care package from home," he held up his bag, "lots of great homemade treats from my mom, plenty enough for all three of us?" he enticed.

Rin licked his lips. Haru wavered. Makoto's mother... was a very good cook...

Makoto bounced forward. "Kitty and I will help you carry your guys to the Center!"

"Don't let Kitty touch Saba," Haru put himself between the fluffy Ampharos and his passed out shiny gyarados.

Makoto rolled his eyes. "I know, I know," he sighed, reaching down to put an arm under Saba's body.

Haru and Rin shared a look as Kitty gingerly put his head under Baby Tooth's arm, being careful of Baby Tooth's sharp-edged blades. "Everything always goes his way, doesn't it?" Rin asked Haru.

Haru just shook his head in exasperation, and reached down to help carry Saba.

"You know, Haru," Makoto grunted under Saba's weight. "You could send him back to his pokéball..."

There were days when being Professor Sycamore's assistant wasn't the best job in Kalos. Most days. Every day. Each and every day... She wondered if Professor Oak's assistants ever felt this way? His assistants probably popped out of bed each day excited for more pokémon research.

For her...

Professor Sycamore was just switching off his holo caster. He'd told one of his new 'students' that they could get more information about mega evolution in Shalour City, that they had to go to the Tower of Mastery. However.

"Professor?" she shyly asked.

"Yes!" he responded joyfully.

She took a deep breath. Professor Sycamore really only had one mood, and it was best described as playful, but he was a pokémon professor, so... "You're... telling those kids to go to Shalour City to learn about mega evolution?"

"Yes!" he nodded, seemingly pleased that it was an easy question.

"And... and that's because Korrina, the gym leader, has a mega ring, and her grandfather has studied mega evolution for years now?" she persisted.

"That's right!" he was pleased that his assistant was so sharp.

She barreled onward. "But the Mega Evolution Guru doesn't have another mega ring, right? I mean, Korrina has their only one?"

"Yes, very true!" Professor Sycamore nodded cheerfully.

"Well..." his assistant hedged.

"But! Korrina and I talked about this. We talked about this in great detail. She's such a great trainer, and really, really fit!" Professor Sycamore was quite firm on the final point.

His assistant felt a little tired.

"And she agreed with me, we can't learn more and more about mega evolution unless new people and new ideas and new perspectives are brought into it! She said that if one of my darling students was really up to it, she wouldn't mind passing her mega ring on," he spread his arms out wide to emphasize his point, whatever it was, and he beamed.

Her brow furrowed. "But... doesn't the Champion, Diantha, have one?"

"Yes!" he smiled and nodded, his expression somewhat vacant. "Oh, she's quite adept with it! I think it's because her bond with her pokémon is so great!"

"And... earlier this month, didn't you give three of your prototypes to those... boys from abroad?" she asked, still unsure why only one of his so-called precious students could get a mega ring, and why Korrina had to give hers up.

"Yes! Oh, and they all made them work! Oh, those boys are exceptional, you know, they're from the boonies just outside the Johto region. I wonder if I should write Professor Elm about their progress? Wait, did I ever get a letter from Professor Elm about them? Does Professor Elm even know who they are? Hm..." He started to look around his desk, which had absolutely no paperwork or letters or any device capable of storing letters on it. "You know, Professor Elm is an expert in pokémon sex!"

"Breeding," she corrected him wearily.

"Breeding requires sex! Though, sex doesn't require breeding, so I suppose technically you are correct..." he mused, really interested.

"You gave those three boys your experimental mega rings without even knowing who they were?" she grilled him.

"Oh, no, they had letters from their parents!" he enthusiastically told her. "Oh, yes, they're wonderful boys! Really, wonderful! Makoto, he's the tall one with the nice rear, he first meet his pokémon partner when he was just a toddler! Just a toddler, mind you! A mareep had gotten separated from his pack, and was in a bush, injured. Little Makoto carried him home so his parents could fix him up! Even though he kept getting shocked, you know, from the mareep's fleece, he persevered, and while the mareep was healing, Little Makoto wouldn't leave his side. He kept calling him kitty! So that became his name! And then they tried to release the mareep to the wild to find his family, but he wouldn't leave Little Makoto's side, and then he and the mareep started to cry thinking they'd be separated! So, he's been a pokémon trainer ever since!"

"That's... that's a rather touching story..." she tried to interrupt him, but he was on a roll.

"And Haru! That's the dark-haired, quiet one with the soulful eyes, he met his pokémon partner while fishing when he was just a little kid. He found a wild, shiny magikarp, but he had no idea it was anything special! He thought it was a fish he could eat! He even tried to cook it, but the magikarp kept flopping out of the pan, like magikarp do, and, well, he was persistent and frustrated, which is how he ended up naming it Saba, that's his favorite kind of fish. The magikarp mistook Haru's attempts at cooking him for affection, and Haru eventually gained a grudging respect for Saba's resistance to being cooked, and they became a pair. Growing up, Haru would use his own body to protect Saba from attacks from his friends' pokémon, and eventually, he evolved Saba into a glorious gyarados, so. You know how that goes!" he winked at her.

"I've always wondered how something so huge and scary can come from a magikarp," she pondered, mainly to herself.

"Nobody knows!" he declared gleefully. "Oh, and the last one! Rin, the redhead with the pointy teeth and real flair for drama! He met his gible when he was very young, and he and his family were on safari. He thought the gible looked like one of his own teeth, so he named him Baby Tooth! Isn't that cute? Rin lost his father when he was young, and for a long time, Baby Tooth was the only living creature who could get close to Rin. That's when Rin decided to become the best pokémon trainer, in his dad's memory. He made friends with Haru and Makoto in grade school! At first, he could always beat both of them in pokémon battles, but then Haru evolved Saba, and... poor Baby Tooth became so traumatized by constantly being beaten by Surf that he developed a real phobia of water. Isn't it nice? A trio of friends with pokémon friends whose strengths and weaknesses are so compatible? It reminds me of a restaurant I went to in Unova! Where was that... Striaton City? I think? Oh, it was an amazing restaurant, which I think was also the City's gym! The gym leaders were chefs, just like our Siebold. Mm. It's been a long time since I've seen Siebold. I wonder if he'll still cook for me? Anyway! The food at the restaurant was just awful, well, you know what food in Unova is like?" he chuckled. "Couldn't get a decent café au lait anywhere..."

"Yes, well..." her eye twitched. She should never have tried to ask the Professor anything.

"Have I told you about how when I was traveling in Unova, I took this fancy yacht ride, and I met this wonderful trainer on the observation lounge? And, well, we weren't really observing anything, but..." he snickered to himself.

She had to stop him. "Then, you've successfully made new mega rings? And Diantha has a mega ring?" she went on, hoping he'd see the cause for her confusion.

"Yes! Well, those were prototypes. I forgot completely about Diantha's one. Mm, I should give her a call..." he drifted off. She didn't want to think about what he was thinking about, but she knew what Diantha would be thinking about if he called her. "I think I'm making progress with this whole mega evolution thing!! Ooh, I should talk to Lysander about it, he might have some good ideas!" he brightly suggested.

She gave up. "That reminds me, Professor. Lysander contacted me this morning. He tried to get you on your holo caster, but it seems it wasn't working? He wanted me to talk to you about a good time for him to come and fix it."

"Oh ho ho, yes, well, I had to turn it off, you know, two way viewscreen and all..." he chortled, at least having the good grace to blush a bit about it. "Ah, those holo casters aren't easy to turn off! I had to really fiddle with it, but I eventually got it. If I didn't know better, I'd think Lysander didn't want anybody to be able to turn off their holo caster! But then, why would he want that?"

She could think of a really good reason why Lysander wouldn't want the Professor to be able to turn off his... but then, if he knew that the Professor was going to give him reason to spy, then...? "Well... uh... I think he wants to have dinner with you..."

"Mm! Well, I'm supposed to have a meal with that lovely designer for Boutique Couture tonight, but it would be a good idea to have an excuse to bring the evening to an end, if you know what I mean," he winked at her like she did know what he meant.

She resisted the urge to slap him.

He went on with his usual cheer. "Yeah, let him know I'll meet him for a late dinner, say, ten thirty? I can come to his café. And tell him my holo caster is fine, he doesn't need to worry about it."

"Professor," she sighed wearily, wanting desperately to erase the past half hour of her life and just go back to her own research, "someday, Lysander is really going to lose it, and then he might, I don't know, blow up half the city."

"Why? Why would you think that? No, but Lysander is a really great man! He's descended from royalty, you know!" the Professor held his arms out and swung them around in protest.

"I know," she nodded tightly. "...Wasn't it the ancient king who created and used the ultimate weapon ages and ages ago?"

"Yes, it was!" he smiled brightly, pleased by her knowledge of history.

She sighed.

Makoto handed Haru another rice ball. He just nodded and took it without looking up. Rin snickered, and Makoto winked at him. Makoto's mom had made sure to include some carefully packed mackerel with the care package, and the mackerel in Kalos, according to Haru, just wasn't like the mackerel back home.

The sun was shining brightly, but they had some shade from the rocks. They were sitting in the picnic area next to the Pokémon Center; Makoto was sitting on a corner stone, and Haru and Rin surrounding him. Baby Tooth and Kitty were playing Chase the Tail, a game that Baby Tooth seemed more interested in and Kitty seemed more afraid of, but Baby Tooth was playing nicely, so. Saba hovered over Haru's shoulder, and Haru occasionally threw a bit of food up for him.

"Rin, you should tell Baby Tooth to take it down a notch," Makoto frowned as Rin's Baby Tooth caused his Kitty to cry out by actually catching his fluffy tail. The red stones in Kitty's tail lit up, but the electricity they produced didn't affect Baby Tooth, anyway.

"Aw, you should tell Kitty to stop being such a scaredy cat! You know it's just that Baby Tooth likes him," Rin winked at Makoto.

"They're compatible, egg group-wise," Haru nodded seriously to Makoto.

"They're also both boys," Makoto rolled his eyes.

"Well, you know, it's not always about makin' eggs," Rin snickered.

"Oh, I see, Rin means..." Haru started.

"Yes, yes, I know what Rin means, and it's up to Kitty if he wants that!" Makoto pouted.

"Aww. I think they're cute together," Rin smiled affectionately, looking at Baby Tooth nearly catch Kitty's tail again.

"They remind me of the two of you when Rin first came to our school," Haru said.

"Huh?" Rin frowned.

"Yeah, Rin was always chasing Makoto around, trying to be all cool, but Makoto was afraid of you, remember? Because you kept challenging him to pokémon battles, and Baby Tooth always won," Haru grinned a bit.

Rin flushed. "Y-yeah, well, those were the days, back when I could kick both your sorry asses..."

"That's not what you were interested in doing with Makoto's ass," Haru snidely remarked.

"H-Haru! We were in grade school then!" Makoto blushed.

"So what? He wanted to kiss you and kept thinking battling was the way to go, the idiot," Haru shrugged.

"Sh-shut up!" Rin looked away, embarrassed.

"Have either of you heard from Nagisa?" Makoto changed the subject to spare them all from Haru's too-good memory.

"Eh? I got some weird message from him, but Baby Tooth 'n' me were in a cave at the time, so," Rin shrugged.

Haru just shook his head.

"Yeah, he sent me a panicked message that Rei was going to join some cult devoted to beauty? So I went to Lumiose City to help out. But... it got really confusing," Makoto sighed.

Rin snorted. "You got lost, huh?"

"W-well, that wasn't really the problem!" Makoto insisted. "I mean, yeah, it's really hard, I can't keep the streets straight in my head at all, but that's not... the thing was, I saw someone and I thought it was Rei, and I went up to him and started to talk to him, but it wasn't Rei at all! Fortunately, he didn't speak Japanese, so he just thought I was a confused tourist, but... Then it happened again!"

"Do you remember what Rei looks like?" Haru asked, concerned.

"I do! But I think..." Makoto sighed and looked off at the rocks in the center of the town. "I think red glasses and side-swept dark hair is just... a popular look in Lumiose City."

"That should make Rei happy," Haru commented.

"I saw a guy who looked like that in a cave, but he was just gaga over his new bride, so I knew it wasn't that dork," Rin sighed.

"Yeah, well, I tried to contact Nagisa, but he just laughed, and said everything was fine now, he'd convinced Rei that the red suit made him look sallow? I don't really get it," Makoto fussed.

"Oh, I saw some guys in red suits. Yeah, I guess they did look sallow..." Rin nodded.

"Cults are bad," Haru added helpfully.

"Lumiose City is really overwhelming, though. Even though we've traveled quite a bit with our pokémon, I still feel like a country bumpkin there," Makoto laughed self-depreciatingly.

"I hate that town," Rin scowled. "Who makes a city layout based on a bicycle wheel? It's just damned confusing. And you make a wrong turn, you end up in alley with some weak-ass punk acting all big, there's not even any good money in beatin' 'em. And then there's only one hotel in town! And it's fuckin' ridiculous! Like, who actually stays there?"

"I accidentally took a room there one night before I realized the price," Makoto lamented. "I had to work there a couple of days more to make up for it. Fortunately, the cafés are open all night..." he sighed.

"I worked there, too," Haru said before Rin could chide Makoto.

Rin leaned back and sighed. "Yeah, me, too."

"Yeah?" Makoto brightened.

"Well, not because I stayed there, though. Was it really nice, at least?"

"It was... well..." Makoto sighed. "I guess the view was ok? But it wasn't that much better than a regular hotel..."

Rin shook his head. "I did room service. It was so stupid! Lumiose and their dumb-ass food... Naughty Hondew Berry Fritters Blizzard Style... What the hell does that even mean? A fritter is fried! How can you have that Blizzard Style?! What does that even mean? And Naughty?? There are naughty berries? Oh, and you get one stupid detail wrong, and then suddenly your work is practically worthless!" Rin really had a good froth going.

"I did lost and found. I stepped on an old lady's glasses. She was polite about it, but like... the sort of polite a person is when they aren't really being polite at all?" Makoto sighed, still feeling guilty.

"I made beds. It was easy," Haru shrugged. He considered for a moment. "It's no wonder they take in so much help off the street, though. Their staff are all morons. They have people who just stand in doorways or pace the halls or stand there with a table... it's amazing anyone can get anything done."

Rin and Makoto both shook their heads, equally amazed by Hotel Richissime.

"Everything in Lumiose sucks," Rin groused. "Worst town in Kalos... you know, the boutique actually said I wasn't stylish enough to even go in! Me! Not stylish enough! I'll show them stylish..."

Makoto and Haru shared a look, and collectively resisted the urge to ask Rin if he was wearing animal prints at the time.

"Those cafés are weird. Like, you have to pass a test to get damned coffee... do you love your Furfrou enough to sit here? No, no I don't. They're stupid prissy dogs and they're hella weak," Rin bit savagely into his mochi.

Makoto snickered. "Aww, but any pokémon could be great with the right trainer."

"That's not true, some pokémon are better than others. Right, Baby Tooth?" Rin asked, tossing Baby Tooth a mochi. Baby Tooth cooed as he reached up and caught it with the tips of his arm blades. He then held it out for Kitty, who jumped and sparkled, and then he bent over and ate it, making Baby Tooth blush.

Rin elbowed Makoto, wiggling his eyebrows. Haru tossed some mochi to Saba, who did a little spin of happiness.

"The restaurants in Lumiose weren't like any I'd been in before. I really didn't understand the first few times I went to one," Makoto sighed.

"Those restaurants are overrated crap," Rin scowled. "The food was so ridiculous and pretentious! I don't want to hear the life story of my soup, and I don't care where the water to make it came from, but I would like something more than a soggy, ancient bone for the damned prices they charge!"

Makoto snickered. "Yeah, that is weird... but actually, with the battling and the mushrooms they give you at the end of the meal, the price isn't bad at all."

"Huh?" Rin looked at Makoto blankly.

"Er..." Makoto got embarrassed on Rin's behalf, thinking maybe he'd spoken out of turn. "Well, uh, you know, those mushrooms they give you... they sell for a good price..."

"What? Aw...!" Rin rolled his eyes and squirmed about, annoyed. "I ate them! They were the only decent thing they served me!"

"Even I knew they could be sold," Haru smirked.

"Sh-shut up! I was hungry! I got a fuckin' bone in a bowl of hot water!" Rin told Haru off.

Haru just kept snickering.

"Well! And with O-powers, the prize money is really good, so you can actually make money there... hard to believe they can stay in business," Makoto thought about it.

Rin and Haru looked at each other and then at Makoto. "O-power?" Rin asked.

"Y-yeah. Don't you guys have 'em?" Makoto looked from Rin to Haru, neither of whom seemed to know what he was talking about. "You get them from the Bonding Man?"

"Bonding Man?" Haru asked skeptically.

"S-sure... you know... he's, well, mostly I met him in, uh. Well. Hotel rooms..." Makoto trailed off, sensing that this wouldn't go well for him.

"Hotel rooms?!" Rin stood up, aghast. "You went to a hotel with some strange guy who wanted to bond?"

Makoto looked sheepish, but there wasn't much he could say. "You make it sound like something it wasn't, I mean... he's weird, but... sometimes, it was in Pokémon Centers..." No, that didn't help.

"Makoto, you have to be careful of strangers. Not everyone is nice like you," Haru urged him.

"Exactly! Damn! Didn't your parents ever teach you about stranger danger!" Rin pointed at Makoto anxiously.

"What's stranger danger?" Makoto asked nervously. Had he missed something in class?

"Makoto's parents are the type to give people stuff when they come into their house, remember?" Haru told Rin.

Rin slapped his forehead. "That's right! Actually, your mom gave me a revives before we left... Ahhh, no more going to hotels with strange guys!" he ordered Makoto.

"What about you two? Can I go to a hotel with you two?" Makoto asked, smiling

"Ahhh," Rin sat down heavily, pretending he wasn't blushing. "You're impossible."

"Well, not every stranger I meet is weird!" Makoto assured them. "I met a really nice old man in Anistar City! He was so lonely, so I left a sweet little Litleo with him. I can't wait to go back and visit with them again." He beamed.

Haru and Rin shared a look. "Uh... how about, you don't go back to see that guy without us? I think we'd like to meet him. Also, stop befriending old men!" It never ended well for Makoto...

Makoto pouted. "It doesn't really matter who it is... meeting new people is part of the joy of traveling. It's how you get stronger, right? New connections, new insights..."

"Don't connect with anyone!" Rin insisted. "Damn, you already have both of us, how many connections do you need?"

"Rin, that's not what I meant!" Makoto laughed.

"You know, the people in this country aren't even all that friendly. You accidentally strike up a conversation with some loser in a Pokémon Center, and all of a sudden he's reciting some stupid poem and then asking for a tip! It's always, you wanna tip? You wanna tip? No, I wanna keep my money, damn it!"

Haru nodded slowly in agreement, but Makoto was just smiling affectionately at him. "It's not that bad... I heard that if you tip, good things are more likely to happen to you. Like finding a shiny pokémon!"

"Makoto, that's just something people here tell you to get you to tip," Rin flatly denied, and Haru definitely seemed to agree with him. "How could that possibly work? How would the shiny pokémon know that you were a tipper?"

"I don't know... but I always tip, and I did run into a shiny skitty!" Makoto beamed.

"You got a shiny skitty? Good job! Now Haru isn't the only one with a shiny!" Rin punched Makoto's arm, grinning proudly.

"Er..." Makoto rubbed his arm, shamefaced. "No, I ran into one. I... didn't catch it."

Haru smirked at Rin.

"You didn't?" Rin slapped his forehead. "How did you miss?"

"Well! She didn't go into the quick ball!" Makoto pouted. "And... I didn't have that many pokéballs, and... my whole team was really high level and I didn't have any moves that could, you know, disable, rather than... uh, kill it..." Makoto sighed. "I ran out of pokéballs, and she got away. But! I saw her!"

"Makoto, that counts for absolutely nothing," Rin deadpanned. "Oh, well. Shiny pokémon aren't that special anyway. It's just coloration."

Haru snorted. "Says the guy without any," he derided, petting Saba, who was looking awfully damned pleased with himself.

Rin just glared.

"So, have you guys met any cool pokémon?" Makoto asked, trying to avert another argument.

"I like the pokémon of this region. They're pretty cute," Haru admitted. "But I haven't found many new water types. I was able to trade to get a froakie. She's grown up into quite the fine greninja. And there's binacle, and clauncher... those both evolved nicely. I had a really pretty skrelp, and I liked her a lot... I still do, but once she evolved, she wasn't a water type anymore," Haru sighed dejectedly.

"Your brain is water logged. You' really are a swimmer, aren't you?" Rin narrowed his eyes at Haru.

"Wearing swim suits all day is very comfortable," Haru sniffed. "And that's how you become a water pokémon master, Rin. By living among the water pokémon."

"As long as you come ashore every now and again to dry off," Makoto smiled at Haru warmly. "I was out late at night once and there were still swimmers out in Azure Bay. I don't think that's very safe..."

"The water protects you," Haru told Makoto seriously.

"Your brain is definitely water logged," Rin rolled his eyes. "I love swimming, man, but I couldn't stand to be constantly, constantly running into tentacools."

"You run into other things, too. I got a mantyke," Haru objected. But then he shrugged, "Well, the main good point of tentacools is that they are so abundant, and able to live anywhere there's water deep enough. But... it's true that, well, they're not my favorite water pokémon. They're not even in my top ten. ...There might be ground types that I like better..." Haru muttered.

Rin smirked. "Hey, don't knock ground types, right, Baby Tooth?"

Baby Tooth cheerfully roared for Rin.

Rin gave him a high sign.

"So, does that mean ground is your favorite type?" Makoto asked Rin.

"Mm, I like any types that are strong," Rin shrugged. "I guess it really depends on the pokémon. We got our asses handed to us by some... sylveon, was it?"

Baby Tooth moaned and hide his face behind his arm blades. Kitty felt sorry for him, and gently touched his shoulder.

"That's because fairies are super effective against dragons," Makoto said comfortingly.

"Have you caught one? A sylveon?" Rin asked Makoto.

"No, you have to evolve them from an eevee," Makoto told him.

"I tried, but mine evolved into an umbreon. He's a good umbreon, mind you..." Rin made a slight pouty face.

"No, it's not happiness. It's affection... you have to play with your eevee and pet them and give them treats," Makoto explained.

"Oh... I guess that makes sense, it'd have to be different than what we've done before," Rin nodded.

"You'll have to be sure your eevee and Baby Tooth are friends before the eevee evolves," Haru cautioned.

Baby Tooth moaned in agreement.

"Like I'd ever let anyone hurt my Baby Tooth!" Rin boasted.

Saba let out a low groan, and the beast looked like he was grinning. Haru looked up at him and smirked.

"I hate you," Rin grumbled.

"Besides Kitty, my favorite pokémon is magneton," Makoto continued on cheerfully, ignoring their sniping at each other.

"Electric nerd," Rin snickered.

Haru looked at Makoto suspiciously.

"No, no, it's not that!" Makoto smiled reassuringly at Haru. "It's just... a magneton is three magnemites, right? They join together... and become stronger than any one magnemite on its own. But when they attack, they separate and spin... like... they become this unit, but they're still individuals within the unit." Makoto grinned excitedly at Haru and Rin. "Sound familiar?"

"He's a romantic," Rin winked at Haru.

"Well, so are you," Haru retorted, but he was smiling, too.

Makoto just beamed. "So... speaking of three being better than one... since... we're all together... why don't we travel around a bit together? Just for a while?"

Haru and Rin looked at each other, and then looked at Makoto, and then back at each other. They were both clearly ambivalent. Rin sighed, and held out his fist. "Makoto, you know we came here to find out about mega evolution. But not just that. We came to find a power that supersedes type match-ups. We owe it to our partners to become the best trainers that we can be. That means traveling and learning things and... we can't get help for that."

Haru looked sad, but he looked like he agreed with Rin.

Makoto looked at Kitty. "I know! I know that, I'm going to be the best for Kitty's sake. I know. But. That doesn't mean we have to always be alone. Like, tonight... the three of us could stay at Hotel Marine Snow. They have... nice beds there. And we could take it from there. Just for a day or two!"

Makoto made good points. Rin and Haru looked at each other again, and they could both tell that the other was wavering, which just made it easier to give in to Makoto. "Well... if it's just a day or so..."

Makoto bounced excitedly. "And! Tomorrow, we can go ride the skiddos at the ranch!"

"You really like that?" Rin gave Makoto a look that indicated the he was questioning Makoto's maturity.

"They're really fast!" Makoto defended his skiddo-riding-love.

"Yeah, they're fast," Rin conceded, "but you can't really go anywhere on 'em. They won't go up the stairs," Rin huffed, clearly disappointed in his lack of ability to steal a fast ride.

"Azure Bay is right there. We can surf out to the cave out there and explore," Haru suggested.

"There's nothing in that cave," Rin objected.

"It must be there for a reason. We can explore, and finish off Makoto's care package out in the bay," Haru eyed the rest of Tachibana-san's loving offerings.

"Fine, fine," Rin shook his head like he was being super generous.

Makoto grinned, and knocked his knees against the other two's. "It won't be so bad, will it? It's been a while. You know. Since we could... be together."

Rin flushed, and then he leaned over and stage whispered to Haru, "It always goes his way!"

"I know," Haru shrugged and rolled his eyes, like there was nothing anyone could do about it.