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Pokémon Alternate Title (Alternate Champion)

Just a Torchic

~ Utterly glorious ~
Location
Sootopolis City
Pronouns
she/they/he?
Partners
  1. torchic
  2. custom/torchic-blue
A Facadeverse fic

It’s hard to be the perfect Gym Leader, but it’s even harder to be the perfect Champion. All of Sootopolis City is staring at you. All of Hoenn is staring at you.

But Wallace is going to do his best. He’s going to take it one day at a time.

Yet another entry into the Facadeverse. A lot of this is headcanons, a lot of this is trying to sort out my own emotions, and a lot of this is "I don't know why I'm writing this, pal".

This story started, like many of my oneshot ideas that I one day want to get to, because of a comment someone made on BHWIB about how my universe's Wallace "will handle the extra pressures of Champion". Maybe there will be a plot. Maybe there won't be a plot. Who's to say.

This story is rated Teen for the following definitely or potentially showing up:

Mental Illness (including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, self harm, and trauma)
Substance Use (including alcohol, past alcohol abuse, and—potentially—other substances)
Bigotry and Prejudice (including slut shaming, discrimination towards LGBTQ+ people, and Fantastic Racism)
Implied Sexual Content
 
Last edited:
It's not easy trying to tell her that I shortly have to leave

Just a Torchic

~ Utterly glorious ~
Location
Sootopolis City
Pronouns
she/they/he?
Partners
  1. torchic
  2. custom/torchic-blue
It's not easy trying to tell her that I shortly have to leave

CW// Panic Attack, Vomiting, Intrusive Thoughts, Implied Past Eating Disorder, Mentions of Alcohol, and Slut Shaming


Wallace knew the day was coming, but that didn’t make it any more stressful.

It was “Champion Night”, Phoebe’s cutesy name for the party commemorating Steven giving his title of Champion to Wallace. Steven was going to travel, learn about rocks, learn about the world, learn about himself. He had been wanting to do this for a long time, and Wallace couldn’t be happier for him.

Wallace wanted to be celebrating with Steven and the others. Instead, he was locked in the bathroom stall furthest from the door, kneeling on the floor, hanging his head over the toilet, vomiting.

It wasn’t food poisoning; Wallace hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. Illness was also off the list; nothing was going around, and Wallace wasn’t one to risk his health with that sort of thing. He wasn’t hungover, and he certainly, certainly hadn’t relapsed. No, this was a panic attack. Out of all the nights to have this bad of a panic attack, it had to be tonight.

Wallace’s head was spinning, and his hands were shaking. He felt the familiar, smooth feeling of Victoria’s scales as he tried reaching for some toilet paper to clean his mouth off. She was hovering over him, holding his cape in her mouth.

“I’m sorry, Victoria."

“Wallace? You okay?”

Damn it. Sidney’s here.

“What are you doing here?” Wallace asked, trying to speak as though he hadn’t just been puking his guts out. It was harder than he expected, especially since his throat felt like it had been raked with sandpaper.

“Steven sent me to go find you. You’ve been gone for ten minutes. He’s worried about you.”

“Tell Steven that I’m fine.”

“You sounded like you just flipped your insides out. If anything, I think his worry is warranted for once. You think you need to go to the hospital?”

“God damn it, Sidney—”

“I don’t want to hear you mumble some shit about dignity under your breath! Do you think I give a shit about dignity? You know what’s more important than dignity—if something happens to you on my watch, your wife will kill me, and then Steven will bring me back from the dead just to kill me again!”

The bathroom was silent for a few moments. Eventually, Wallace flushed the toilet, stood up from the floor, and, leaning on the wall for support, opened the stall door.

“I didn’t throw up every one of my internal organs,” he mumbled, “so I think I should be good for the rest of the night.”

“Geez, pal. You don’t look or sound good. You wanna go home?”

“Yes.”

Wallace walked over to one of the sinks and turned on the faucet. As he washed out his mouth, he heard Sidney say, “All right. I’ll call Winona and tell her to—“

“Don’t.”

“I thought you wanted to go home.”

Wallace let the water run through his hands. He was starting to dissociate; the walls of the bathroom and the confines of his body were starting to feel like a prison for his mind.

“I do,” he said.

“Then why can’t I tell Winona?”

“Because I can’t go home.”

Victoria left the stall, and Wallace took his cape from her. Before he left the bathroom, he put it back on and looked over at Sidney.

“Don’t tell anyone that I was in here making a fool of myself.”

“But Wallace—”

“That’s an order, Sidney,” Wallace snapped, pointing a cold finger at Sidney.

Sidney held up his hands in defeat, smiling.

“Already exercising your Champion privileges, I see.”

Wallace dropped his hand to his side.

“I’m sorry, Sidney,” he said, his voice softer.

“Eh, I was just joking, kid.”



-



The main ballroom at the Ever Grande Conference Center was big. It had black, carpeted floors and dark, hardwood walls with ornate carvings of Hoenn’s Weather Trio.

Steven was in the center of the ballroom. In contrast to Wallace’s white cape, his suit was ink black.

But Steven wasn’t just standing in the center of the room. Swing dancing was in, well, full swing, and he was the star of the dance floor. When he saw Wallace and Sidney, he spun and danced his way over to them, exchanging partners the whole way. When he finally reached the two, he was holding Diantha’s hand and leaning towards them.

“You finally found them,” Steven said as he waved to Diantha, who was returning to the dance floor. “Where were they?”

“They were—”

“I got lost,” Wallace lied. “Sidney got lost while trying to find me, and we were both lost for a bit. But now”— he smiled—“Now we’re not lost.”

Before Sidney could call out Wallace, Steven laughed and said, “glad to know you two aren’t lost anymore.”

“You seem to be having the time of your life,” Wallace chuckled.

“Sure am.” Steven gestured to the band—the Slateport Jazz Orchestra. “These fellas are wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. I knew a couple of them in college.” An idea dawned on him. “Say, why don’t you and Winona join in on the dancing?”

“I’d… have to find her first.”

Wallace looked around to see if he could find Winona, only to realize that Sidney was also nowhere to be seen.

“She was in a yellow halter dress, wasn’t she?”

The worry in Wallace’s eyes faded, and he sighed with a dreamy smile.

“Doesn’t she look beautiful in it, Steven? She looks like an angel.”

“I know, I know,” Steven chuckled. “You two just couldn’t pull away from each other in the month after your wedding.”

“We had to make up for our short honeymoon somehow. Besides, if we’re going to start a family, we’re going to have to, well, start.”

“Steven!” Lance called.

Wallace rolled his eyes. “Oh joy, I just remembered that I’m going to be his fellow.”

Steven playfully nudged Wallace. “Don’t get into too many fights when I’m in my caves.” He began walking towards the others. “I’ll see you and Winona on the dance floor soon!”

-

While trying to find Winona, Wallace sat down in one of the chairs by the refreshments table, slowly eating some of the water crackers in an attempt to put something back in his system. He was starting to get light headed, so he tried deep breathing. He also smiled, trying to hide the fact that he really didn’t want to be at the party anymore.

“Hey, Wallace!”

Blue was walking over, along with his posse of friends: Clair, Volkner, and Raihan.

“Fancy seeing you four here.” Wallace waved.

“It seems you’re leaving our club,” Blue teased. “Darn, Wallace, how are you going to deal with Lance and Cynthia without us?”

“Blue, I may be a Champion now, but I can assure you that I much prefer your company to the company of those two.”

“That’s because we’re more fun. Right, fellas?"

The other three sounded a chorus of playful “yeahs” and “sures”.

Wallace stood up. Bad idea, because his head started spinning again.

“Speaking of fun,” he started, “I need to find someone.”

“Are you sick of us already?” Raihan joked.

“Of course not. I just—”

“Roll camera, Ty!”

Two other people stood just a few feet from Wallace: Gabby and Ty of Hoenn TV. What lingering anxiety he had from before increased tenfold—maybe twentyfold—when he saw them.

“Hello there, Hoenn,” Gabby chimed in as she began invading Wallace’s personal space. “We’re here live to conduct an interview with your newest Champion: Sootopolis City’s Wallace!”

Great, Wallace thought, now I have to worry about performing in front of this ballroom and the whole world.

Out of the corner of his eye, Wallace saw Steven, who was greeting guests at the door. He looked so calm, so collected, so much like the perfect Champion: a Champion who could talk to people, a Champion who could face the press and public with grace, a Champion who was fit to represent Hoenn. Champion Steven had been the crown jewel of Hoenn.

And Champion Wallace? Champion Wallace was seconds away from either throwing up or dropping dead on live TV.

“How does it feel to be rising from your position as Gym Leader to Champion?” Gabby asked.

“Oh, it’s been… it’s been fine.” Wallace could practically hear the whispers of viewers: What the hell is he saying? I thought he was Dorian’s child. “I’ll miss the trainers at the Sootopolis Gym, but the Elite Four members have been more than welcoming.”

“Well, that’s lovely! I hear your former mentor is taking over the Gym.”

“Yes. Juan is certainly the best person I could ask to run the Gym in my place.” If I were Juan, I would be ashamed of mentoring such a fool.

“Your fans have certainly been thrilled for you! You’re the talk all over Hoenn!”

“Heh… that’s…” Why is that Sootopolitan slut representing Hoenn?! Freaks like him are pathetic! Someone should just kill him already!

“Wallace? Is everything okay?”

“…Excuse me a minute.”

-

As soon as Wallace staggered out to the garden, he leaned over a railing and threw up.

Wallace couldn’t make sense of his surroundings, so he could only close his eyes and pray that no one else was outside. His vision was blurry, like he was trying to open his eyes underwater, but he eventually came to the conclusion that no one else was outside.

“Wallace… Hey, Wallace, it’s okay. I’m right here. Just get it all up.”

Well, no one else save a certain woman in a yellow dress.

Winona had one hand on Wallace’s back, and Wallace gripped the other tightly on the railing of the bridge. His head was spinning. Hell, it felt like everything was spinning. He only had two things on his mind as he was heaving: the fear that Gabby and Ty had followed him, and the fear that he would pass out.

“Wallace, can you hear me? Are you okay?”

Wallace coughed and gasped for air. For a moment, he was convinced that he would choke on nothing to death.

“Is anyone… anyone else out here?” he panted.

“No, darling. It’s just you and me. You’re okay. We’re going to go home. It’s going to be okay.”

”I can’t leave. I can’t leave. I can’t…”

”You’re in no condition to be staying at this party. I’ll tell Steven you aren’t feeling well. I’m sure he’ll understand.”

”But what about everyone else?”

”Who cares what everyone else thinks?”

Winona wrapped her arm around Wallace’s shoulders.

”Do you think you’ll be able to make it back home?”

Wallace was too out of it to even think of a response. The garden was silent, save for his ragged breathing.

”I can ask Steven if we can stay at his room for the night," Winona said. "How does that sound?”

Wallace managed to nod.
 
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Been a long time since the party, and the room is in a mess

Just a Torchic

~ Utterly glorious ~
Location
Sootopolis City
Pronouns
she/they/he?
Partners
  1. torchic
  2. custom/torchic-blue
Been a long time since the party, and the room is in a mess

CW// Mental Illness, Self Hatred, Anxiety, Implied Sexual Content, Implied Eating Disorder, Mentions of Alcohol, and Mentions of Vomiting


Wallace woke up with the parched, foul taste of vomit still lingering in his mouth. He sat up and realized that he was sitting in one of the double beds in Steven’s hotel room.

The rest of the night before had been a blur. There were the faintest shadows of memories of Winona helping him take off his cape, of Steven returning to the room, of Steven and Winona talking. It felt like a hyper realistic dream.

But now Wallace was left with one other thought: he had made a fool of himself at that party. He had made a fool of himself on his first night as Champion. He had made a fool of himself in front of the whole damn world.

“Good morning, Wallace.”

Steven was in the kitchenette. A kettle was boiling on the stove.

“Water…” Wallace mumbled.

“Hm?… Oh!”

Steven took a cup from the cupboard and filled it with water. He briskly walked over to the bed and sat next to Wallace.

“Here you go.”

The water was ambrosia to Wallace’s throat, but he was too thirsty to drink it slowly. After he finished it a few seconds later, he leaned against Steven’s arm.

“Are you feeling any better?” Steven asked.

“I feel disgusting.”

“Would a shower or bath help?”

“Where’s Winona?”

“She’s talking to some of her friends. Flannery got into a pretty heated argument with Chili—“

“And here I was thinking that I had escaped Wattson’s puns.”

Steven smiled and patted Wallace’s shoulder.

“Well, that’s what happens when I spend too much time talking to him about business. Winona should be back soon, though. In the meantime, I’m going to make breakfast. Go treat yourself.”

“I’m sorry about last night.”

“Hey, I wasn't going to stay long anyway. Don’t worry about it.”

“I also made an ass out of myself and the Hoenn region.”

“No you didn’t."

“Didn’t they play interviews from last night this morning?”

“Yeah, and Grimsely publicly declared Karen his enemy, that new Gym Leader Avery challenged Chuck to a drinking contest, and Blue and his buddies did a song and dance number. The worst thing you did was leave an interview midway through it, but that happens all the time when people don’t want to deal with the press.”

“I didn’t throw up on camera, did I?”

Steven shook his head.

“For what it’s worth, I think you left at a good time. If you had stayed any longer, they would probably start asking you about your and Winona’s love life. You know how the press is.”

Wallace sighed.

“Unfortunately, I know all too well.”

-

Water had always had a therapeutic effect on Wallace. Perhaps that was because of Sootopolis City’s affinity for the sea or the fact that Wallace was a Water type trainer.

Wallace let himself take in the warm water of the shower, the calming steam, the smoothness of the tiles.

A towel and bathrobe was waiting on the counter when Wallace finished his shower. As he put on the bathrobe, he caught a glance of his reflection in the mirror. The glance easily became a long stare.

Who is that? Of course he knew who it was. It was himself: Wallace Izumi Papadakis. Gym Leader turned Champion, Coordinator, and guardian and poster child of Sootopolis City. But he didn’t feel like he was the same person as the reflection staring back at him. He felt like a detached soul staring at a freak he didn’t know. It made seeing all of his imperfections—the physical, social, and psychological ones—all the more easier.

Why can’t I be perfect? Why can’t I at least be normal or functional?

Wallace turned on the faucet and let the water run under his fingers. It was cold in a comforting way. It helped ground him in reality. It lowered his anxiety to a level where he could open the door to the bathroom.

-

Steven was drinking a cup of tea on the sofa. Another cup, along with a plate of toast, sat on the coffee table in front of him.

Wallace was hungry—no, he was starving— but years of ignoring hunger pangs had taken their toll on him, not to mention his anxiety over eating in front of other people. The latter had gotten better over the years, though, to the point that he could eat in front of people he was close to without having a panic attack.

“How do you do it, Steven?” Wallace asked as he sat down next to him.

“Do what?” Steven smirked playfully. “Look this sexy?”

That got a small chuckle out of Wallace.

“No, I mean how do you handle everything so… perfectly?”

“I don’t handle everything perfectly— at all —and to be honest, I don’t know how I even handled last night. Usually, big crowds overwhelm me, but sometimes, they randomly just… don’t.” Steven gestured absentmindedly with his hand. “I know I’m leaving a lot on your plate, but as someone who deals with anxiety and depression and as someone who was the Champion for quite a few years, I’ll gladly be a listening ear.”

Wallace was staring at the cup on the coffee table. Steven wrapped his arm around his shoulders.

“This is going to sound really corny, but hear me out.” Steven’s voice had lowered to something less joking and more soothing, like a brook gliding over pebbles. “It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to not be perfect every single moment. Do you promise to keep that in mind as the new Hoenn Champion?”

“I’ll try.”

“Well, I’ll be halfway around the world at times, so it’s going to be hard for me to keep track of you.”

An idea struck. Steven got up and walked over to the closet. As he rummaged through his suitcase, someone knocked on the door.

“I’ll get it!” Steven sprung up and ran to open the door. Winona was there. “How’s Flannery?”

“She’s still not on speaking terms with Chili.”

Steven laughed.

“Well, let’s hope this is like that one fight with Brawly.”

Wallace stood up to greet his wife.

“Good morning, darling.” He wrapped his arms around her.

“Feeling any better?” Winona asked.

“A little bit.”

“I was just about to give him something,” Steven chimed in.

He extended his arm, holding a reddish pink, crystalline stone.

“Is that a ruby?” Wallace asked.

“Close,” Steven lied. “It’s rose quartz. A mineral, not a rock.”

Wallace picked up the quartz and turned it in his hands a few times. It was a very beautiful rock—mineral.

”Whenever I’m far away,” Steven said, “think of me as that little mineral, there to guide to and help you. I’ll call you guys often, of course, but whenever I can’t, then I’m the rose quartz.”

In fairness, this was probably one of Steven’s tamest ideas.

“And I’ll be there for you,” Winona added. “Even when I’m at the Gym or dealing with the other Gym Leaders, the doors to my Gym and my arms will always be open to you. It was part of our weddings vows, in a way.”

Wallace had to smile. He didn’t think he deserved companions like Steven and Winona.

”What’s rose quartz Steven’s advice right now?” he asked.

”Eat some toast,” Steven replied.
 
The four kings of EMI are sitting stately on the floor - Sidney

Just a Torchic

~ Utterly glorious ~
Location
Sootopolis City
Pronouns
she/they/he?
Partners
  1. torchic
  2. custom/torchic-blue
The four kings of EMI are sitting stately on the floor

CW// Mentions of Alcohol and Marijuana


Wallace’s office in Ever Grande City was bigger than his office in the Sootopolis City Gym. It had gray walls and dark, wooden floors. There was a bathroom on one side and a closet on the other. Wallace assumed that Steven used the latter for rocks, but he personally didn’t have much of a use for it.

He decorated the new office like his old one, with some changes to reflect the changes in his life: pictures of his family—his sister and brother in-law, his niece, his wife of three months, his Pokémon, Juan, and Steven—a desktop computer—one he would likely never use, but Steven wanted him to be up to date on technology—and a set of blue pencils.

“Hey, kid.”

Wallace jumped and looked up at the sound of Sidney’s voice. “How did you get in my office?”

“The door was unlocked.”

“Well…” Wallace sighed, smiling. “...come in. I can get you a chair—”

Sidney sat on Wallace’s desk.

“...but that works, too.”

Wallace walked over to a dresser nearby, where he had set up a teapot and boxes of tea. “Do you want any tea?”

“Geez, you’re taking after Glacia already.”

“I developed my habit of tea drinking separate from Glacia’s. It beats alcohol or… the other substance people call ‘tea’.”

"How do you know what weed's like? I thought you were clean as a Nuzleaf's whistle."

Wallace tensed up. Shit, Sidney was starting to get closer to noticing the cracks in his facade. He was getting closer to the truth: Wallace wasn't a perfect Champion. Not perfect. Not perfect. Not—

“Can I take this?”

Sidney put his foot on the table and pointed to the desktop computer. No other mention of drugs or Wallace's past. Just a simple question about... his computer?

“S-sure." Damn it, Wallace! Stop stuttering.

Sidney gawked at Wallace’s reply. “Really?!”

“Sure." You just said sure! "Just take your feet off of my desk.”

In a flash, Sidney unplugged the computer and ran off with it.

“Wait!” Wallace started to run after him. “What about your…” He stopped right outside his office. Sidney was gone. “…You forgot your tea.”

He waited a while, staring down the hallway, before he walked back into his office. Maybe he could give Victoria Sidney's tea. Maybe he could drink it himself to stop his racing thoughts.
 
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Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
  2. lairon
Oh man, the general confusion and uncertainty over having Steven and Wallace be canon Champions at separate times has always been a big question mark for anyone who writes Hoenn stuff, and I was wondering what your take on it was going to be! There's so many different ways to approach the subject, and I like your version here.

Looks like you've gone with a game-canon feel, having Steven step down and pass the title on to Wallace. Of course, this doesn't go smoothly, and certainly not for someone like Wallace who puts so much pressure on themself. Boy, the gremlins run deep for Wallace, and I really feel for him. Balancing so much on one's plate and then having a whole other heaping helping of stress piled on top?? It's no wonder he's having A Time:tm:

I read chapters 1 and 2 together, as they paint a great picture when paired together. Chapter 1 is very much Not Okay and Wallace is not okay with being Not Okay. There is a running theme of anxiety, fear, and being alone. It reminds me of when in a movie or tv show, they have a face cam on a character with this wild distorted fish-eye lens, and it's just them on fast forward going through everything that's stressing them out, and in this case the camera is squarely on Wallace. The center of the chapter is him, and he is the center of attention. He's surrounded by his friends and yet they're on the periphery as he's living through his panic attack. He has conversations with Steven and Blue, but do they really see him? Are they speaking to the real him right in the moment? My guess is no.

Then, right at the end, his beloved is there to catch him. Winona breaks through where others haven't been able to, and she sees him and all his struggles. Which is a great lead in to Chapter 2, wherein Wallace isn't alone any more. He's with Winona and Steven, and this time they all can see him, the real him. A little part of me is perhaps bothered by the fact that Steven was more ignorant of his friend's plight the previous night, but he's only human, and here he makes more than amends with the comfort, grace, and advice he lends. It's touching, and it's a breath of fresh air knowing that the stress can be seen in a more positive, manageable light. And of course Steven's help comes in the form of a rock (sorry, mineral xD)

Gabby and Ty: Champion Wallace, what would you say is your spirit animal?
Wallace: Well, it's more of a spirit rock, actually...

Speaking of humor, I really enjoy the lighthearted banter in between the heavier subject material. A lot of little details caught my eye, too, like Victoria holding up Wallace's cape while he was sick (best partner ever 10/10). I'd pick them all out but then I'd be quoting over half your fic back to you!

I always enjoy seeing the Elites and Gym Leaders interacting with each other, sharing things that no challenger might ever dream of knowing. It makes them into real, believable people. A lot of times we're so engrossed with catching and training magical creatures that we forget there's a real world out there with people who shoulder real responsibility. It takes a lot to make the poke-world work, and this fic is proof that we all need our friends to keep the gremlins at bay. It's humanizing and relatable, and I love seeing your take on these trainers.
 

Just a Torchic

~ Utterly glorious ~
Location
Sootopolis City
Pronouns
she/they/he?
Partners
  1. torchic
  2. custom/torchic-blue
@Panoramic_Vacuum Hey you're here reading my Hoenn stuff!!
Oh man, the general confusion and uncertainty over having Steven and Wallace be canon Champions at separate times has always been a big question mark for anyone who writes Hoenn stuff, and I was wondering what your take on it was going to be! There's so many different ways to approach the subject, and I like your version here.
(:
Looks like you've gone with a game-canon feel, having Steven step down and pass the title on to Wallace. Of course, this doesn't go smoothly, and certainly not for someone like Wallace who puts so much pressure on themself. Boy, the gremlins run deep for Wallace, and I really feel for him. Balancing so much on one's plate and then having a whole other heaping helping of stress piled on top?? It's no wonder he's having A Time:tm:
The gremlins run so deep the Marina Trench looks like a kiddie pool lol.
I read chapters 1 and 2 together, as they paint a great picture when paired together. Chapter 1 is very much Not Okay and Wallace is not okay with being Not Okay. There is a running theme of anxiety, fear, and being alone.
Nothing is okay lol.
It reminds me of when in a movie or tv show, they have a face cam on a character with this wild distorted fish-eye lens, and it's just them on fast forward going through everything that's stressing them out, and in this case the camera is squarely on Wallace.
THIS! This is such a good image of this scene! This scene was very much based on "Randy Scouse Git" in many ways, but especially the chorus (the chaos of Micky Dolenz screaming on one "A" note, especially the lead out chorus where the screaming is over Micky singing the verse... gosh that song is the personification of anxiety in a public setting lol).
The center of the chapter is him, and he is the center of attention. He's surrounded by his friends and yet they're on the periphery as he's living through his panic attack. He has conversations with Steven and Blue, but do they really see him? Are they speaking to the real him right in the moment? My guess is no.
He is here, and he does not want to be here at all.
Then, right at the end, his beloved is there to catch him. Winona breaks through where others haven't been able to, and she sees him and all his struggles. Which is a great lead in to Chapter 2, wherein Wallace isn't alone any more. He's with Winona and Steven, and this time they all can see him, the real him.
I would link to that one Muppet Babies song but that would expose me as a Muppet Babies stan lol
A little part of me is perhaps bothered by the fact that Steven was more ignorant of his friend's plight the previous night, but he's only human, and here he makes more than amends with the comfort, grace, and advice he lends. It's touching, and it's a breath of fresh air knowing that the stress can be seen in a more positive, manageable light. And of course Steven's help comes in the form of a rock (sorry, mineral xD)
Part of that is Wallace trying to keep up a mask, part of that is Steven not being good at reading people (especially in large group settings), but when he realizes that his friend is actually not okay, he's like "oh shoot I've got to make this up with minerals."
Gabby and Ty: Champion Wallace, what would you say is your spirit animal?
Wallace: Well, it's more of a spirit rock, actually...
Mood lol
Speaking of humor, I really enjoy the lighthearted banter in between the heavier subject material. A lot of little details caught my eye, too, like Victoria holding up Wallace's cape while he was sick (best partner ever 10/10). I'd pick them all out but then I'd be quoting over half your fic back to you!
Hey, quote as much of my fic as you want! I love it when people like little specific parts of my fics.
I always enjoy seeing the Elites and Gym Leaders interacting with each other, sharing things that no challenger might ever dream of knowing. It makes them into real, believable people. A lot of times we're so engrossed with catching and training magical creatures that we forget there's a real world out there with people who shoulder real responsibility. It takes a lot to make the poke-world work, and this fic is proof that we all need our friends to keep the gremlins at bay. It's humanizing and relatable, and I love seeing your take on these trainers.
I'm really glad you enjoyed this. I wasn't really sure what to do with it tbh, but I'm putting off working on this fic until I finish I'm a Marionette.
 
Phoebe

Just a Torchic

~ Utterly glorious ~
Location
Sootopolis City
Pronouns
she/they/he?
Partners
  1. torchic
  2. custom/torchic-blue
CW//Mental Illness, Anxiety, Mentions of Drug Abuse

By noon, Wallace had downed three cups of ginger tea and two cups of peppermint tea. He needed the tea; he wasn't going to make a fool of himself again.

In addition to regular Sootopolis-related paperwork, such as stuff from Mayor Metaxas, he now also had to worry about the paperwork that came with the title of Champion. But he could manage. He had dealt with worse, and this time, he had the advantage of sobriety: almost five years clean.

So why couldn't he focus? Why was there a storm looming on the horizon of his mind?

“Hi there!”

Wallace's heart rate skyrocketed at the sound of someone's voice, but he relaxed a bit when he saw who it had come from: Phoebe.

Stop being so jumpy. Steven wasn't this much of a mess when he was Champion. Drake wasn't this much of a mess when he was Champion. Hinata wasn't—

"Waaaaallaaaaaace. Earth to Wallace."

Phoebe was standing in front of Wallace, waving her hand over his face.

“Sorry about that, Phoebe." He sighed, putting up a smile. "Good to see you."

“Hi, Wallace!" Phoebe smiled, happy as ever. "Have you seen Ethel?”

"Ethel?"

Phoebe's eyes lit up. "Oh! She's my Dusclops!"

“She’s…” Wallace snapped his head around the room, his heart racing again. Had Ethel been stalking him all this time? Had she heard him talking to himself? Had she heard his thoughts? Had she seen him pacing around the room like an idiot? “...She’s not in here, is she?”

Phoebe smiled. “I hope not. Steven gave her and my other Pokémon a long talk about how they shouldn’t startle you or stalk you.”

“That’s…" Wallace smiled. "Well, I’ll have to thank him for that.” It wasn’t too surprising that Steven would talk to Phoebe’s Pokémon to prep them for a change in Champion, but still... what had Steven said to them? “Well, I haven’t seen any of your Pokémon since arriving here.”

“You haven’t? Darn. My Banettes were supposed to give you a present when you came.” Phoebe skipped out of the room. Not a minute later, Wallace heard her scream from her office: “MR. CUDDLES! MRS. CUDDLES! YOU ATE WALLACE’S PRESENT!”

That piqued Wallace’s curiosity. What had Phoebe been planning on giving him? Food? Well, given Wallace's history, that would be—

Phoebe trudged back into the room, her shoulders sagging and her face falling in a frown.

“Wallace, I’m sorry to say this, but Mr. and Mrs. Cuddles ate the seashells I was gonna give you.”

"S-seashells?"

Phoebe cocked her head. "Why do you look so surprised? Aren't you a Water type trainer?"
 
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Glacia

Just a Torchic

~ Utterly glorious ~
Location
Sootopolis City
Pronouns
she/they/he?
Partners
  1. torchic
  2. custom/torchic-blue
Wallace realized that he had fallen asleep, because he found himself lying on the sofa in his office. He had a blanket—a white and blue crocheted blanket. It was... It was like a hug. He wrapped himself up tighter. It was like getting a hug without the humiliation that came with asking for one.

His mind starting wandering, wondering... Where did this blanket come from? How did he get on the sofa? Hadn't he been pacing around the room?

The snowflake pattern told him more than enough about its creator.

“Good afternoon, Wallace,” Glacia said, taking a sip from the cup of tea she was holding. She was sitting at Wallace's desk. The rest of Wallace's things—mostly books and maps of Hoenn's Grande Archipelago, the islands dotting its eastern seas—were placed neatly around in the office in the perfect places for them to be. “How was your nap?”

“I didn’t think I was tired enough to fall asleep for…” his eyes widened when he glanced over at the clock. “...three hours?!?!”

“It’s okay, Wallace. Steven would sometimes crash at his desk after a particularly long or stressful day, so I’m—”

“Not like that!” Thoughts were spinning in Wallace's head, and he stared to feel nausea creeping up. He sat up, not bothering to take the blanket off of his shoulders. “I need to finish the paperwork! I need to get ready for a meeting with Cockburn! I need to get ready for a meeting with Mayor Metaxas. I need to—”

“Wallace.”

Glacia knelt in front of Wallace, poised with a motherly grace. She took his hands and gently squeezed them.

“Deep breath in with me, Wallace. Breath in… Hold… Breath out… … Breath in… Hold… Breath out… …”

Slowly, Wallace’s thoughts and heart calmed down as his nausea subsided. It was only by a little at a time, but with a little at a time—steady breath in, steady breath out—he managed to come back down, managed to give Glacia a small smile.

"There we go," Glacia said softly, her smile dainty as a snowflake. "Winona says that art helps you when you're stressed. Why don't I teach you how to crochet? Maybe you can make me a blanket."

"But what about—"

"Wallace, when are these meetings?"

"Next week."

Glacia's eyes widened. "Next week?! Then why are you so worried now?"

"Because I've got to be perfect at the meetings."

"Why is that?"

"If I'm not perfect, then I'll be a failure to Sootopolis City and Hoenn."

Glacia rested her hand under her chin, closing her eyes in contemplation.

"Wallace," she eventually said, "have you ever seen snowflakes up close?"

Wallace nodded.

"Have you ever noticed how each one is unique, and how no snowflake is perfect?"

"I've heard of the first part," Wallace answered.

"Well, everyone is like a snowflake. Everyone of us is special in our own, unique way. No one is perfect, but that doesn't make anyone any less special."

"But Glacia—"

"Now come on." Glacia stood up. "Let's go crochet together."

Wallace sat still for a few seconds. Perhaps Glacia was right. Perhaps he was worrying about these meetings too much. Perhaps crocheting would help, even just a little.

But he still had some questions.
 
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Drake

Just a Torchic

~ Utterly glorious ~
Location
Sootopolis City
Pronouns
she/they/he?
Partners
  1. torchic
  2. custom/torchic-blue
“Drake?”

Drake looked up from his book. Wallace was standing in the doorway of the study, his face stoic and his posture perfect.

Drake put down his book and gestured towards the chair next to him. “Sit down, my friend.”

“I’m going to be going home soon, so I don’t have much time to chat. I just need to ask you something.”

“Come on, lad. Surely you have the time to sit down and have a chat with—”

“How much did Steven tell you?”

Drake raised an eyebrow. Perhaps Wallace had been a little too blunt in his tone.

“Well, Steven and Winona both talked with me and the rest of the Elite Four after the party. They both said that you might have some problems adjusting to your new position and that we should do our best to make you feel welcome. They also said you’re a stickler for cleanliness, which might be hard for me and Sidney…” Drake laughed to himself for a bit. “...But if there’s anything else we should know—”

“There isn’t. I was just… curious, you know?”

Drake’s expression harshened. “Is there something you aren’t telling us?”

“No! Of course not! I’m not—”

Drake smiled, the sharpness of his face softening. “Wallace, none of us care about your identity or dress or whatever… not in the sense that we don’t like it or don’t care about your struggles, not at all. It’s in the sense that we’ll accept you no matter what. Is that what you’re worried about?”

Wallace smiled. “Yes,” he lied.
 

ShiniGojira

Multiversal Extraordinaire
Location
Stranded In The Gaps between Multiverses
Pronouns
He/him/they/her?
Partners
  1. custom/zorua-gojira
Hello, Torchic! Hope you're having a lovely day today! Here I am for the catnip and I've read all of them in one sitting. I enjoyed them as much as I've enjoyed IAM. (I should probably do more reading soon. Haven't been doing much of that recently so this was a nice way to jumpstart my read list)

Chapter 1 and 2 are much different from 3-6. As these two are talking about the start of Wallace's championhood (I'm gonna assume the two ending chapters of this will be when Steven returns).

Chappie 1 talks about a bit of Wallace's past trauma (presumably something to do with IAM) and about his anxiety of being interviewed to thousands– maybe millions of eyes! (So I understand why he's nervous) The end with Winona was cute and I liked it.

Oh and also I loved the surprise appearance of Blue and his ragtag group of 'second-best'.

Chapter 2 has nice exchanges between Steven and Wallace. Steven being supportive and Wallace being this mushed-up ball of anxiety and nerves. Lovely amount of whump and jokes.

Chapter 3 to 6 are a bit more lighthearted than the first 2 and they were just great! I always enjoy some family-ish interactions between the champion and their E4, it's so fun to see relationships like these.

Chapter 3 has stoner based Sidney and did he really take the entire computer? Oh God. Chapter 4 with child-like ball of sunshine Phoebe and her cuddly ghosts were cute. Chapter 5 has Glacia being the sort of 'mother' of the group and it's cute to see her teaching Wallace some stuff. Then chapter 6 has the stoic Drake and his blunt but effective advice, although it seems like Wallace doesn't truly believe in that.

And here's my line-by-line thoughts:
“That’s an order, Sidney,” Wallace snapped, pointing a cold finger at Sidney.

Sidney held up his hands in defeat, smiling.

“Already exercising your Champion privileges, I see.”

Wallace dropped his hand to his side.

“I’m sorry, Sidney,” he said, his voice softer.

“Eh, I was just joking, kid.”
Fun exchange. Loving the dynamic between them.
“She was in a yellow halter dress, wasn’t she?”

The worry in Wallace’s eyes faded, and he sighed with a dreamy smile.

“Doesn’t she look beautiful in it, Steven? She looks like an angel.”

“I know, I know,” Steven chuckled. “You two just couldn’t pull away from each other in the month after your wedding.”

“We had to make up for our short honeymoon somehow. Besides, if we’re going to start a family, we’re going to have to, well, start.”
Aw, that's cute.
Two other people stood just a few feet from Wallace: Gabby and Ty of Hoenn TV.
So, um are they the reporters we beat up in the games? 'cause that's kinda how I'm imagining them as.
If I were Juan, I would be ashamed of myself for mentoring a fool like him.
Probably just me being nitpicky but I find it a little weird that Wallace is referring to himself in both first person and third person here. Almost sounds like he's talking about Juan himself in the last 'him'.

Maybe try 'If I were Juan, I would be ashamed for mentoring (a fool/someone) like me.'
”But what about everyone else?”

”Who cares what everyone else thinks?”
A nice and supportive exchange between Wallace and Winona.
Water had always had a therapeutic effect on Wallace. Perhaps that was because of Sootopolis City’s affinity for the sea or the fact that Wallace was a Water type trainer.
It could also be both, Wallace, my boy!
He felt like a detached soul staring at a freak he didn’t know. It made seeing all of his imperfections—the physical, social, and psychological ones—all the more easier.

Why can’t I be perfect? Why can’t I at least be normal or functional?
No one is truly normal nor can they be perfect. Even the most normal-looking person can have one thing about them that makes them weird to others.

I think it's fine to be weird or have something that's weird as long as it doesn't hurt people.
“I don’t handle everything perfectly— at all —and to be honest, I don’t know how I even handled last night. Usually, big crowds overwhelm me, but sometimes, they randomly just… don’t.” Steven gestured absentmindedly with his hand. “I know I’m leaving a lot on your plate, but as someone who deals with anxiety and depression and as someone who was the Champion for quite a few years, I’ll gladly be a listening ear.”
Supportive Steven is supportive.
“This is going to sound really corny, but hear me out.” Steven’s voice had lowered to something less joking and more soothing, like a brook gliding over pebbles. “It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to not be perfect every single moment. Do you promise to keep that in mind as the new Hoenn Champion?”
Easier said than done but good advice from the rock man himself.
Whenever I’m far away,” Steven said, “think of me as that little mineral, there to guide to and help you. I’ll call you guys often, of course, but whenever I can’t, then I’m the rose quartz.”
I don't know if this is intentional or not, but this kinda feels like a reference to Steven Universe. What with the whole Steven is a rose quartz and helps comfort people in the show.

A fun little reference if it is and a lovely coincidence if it isn't.
Wallace jumped and looked up at the sound of Sidney’s voice. “How did you get in my office?”

“The door was unlocked.”

“Well…” Wallace sighed, smiling. “...come in. I can get you a chair—”

Sidney sat on Wallace’s desk.

“...but that works, too.”
Based Sidney.
Had she heard him talking to himself? Had he heard his thoughts?
Genderfluid Dusclops ftw!

(Jokes aside, that 'he' should be a 'she')
“MR. CUDDLES! MRS. CUDDLES! YOU ATE WALLACE’S PRESENT!”
Love the image of Phoebe shouting at two ghosts named 'Cuddles'. Fun and cute.
Anywho, take care, Torchic! Hope your day's looking up for you! See ya!
 

Just a Torchic

~ Utterly glorious ~
Location
Sootopolis City
Pronouns
she/they/he?
Partners
  1. torchic
  2. custom/torchic-blue
Hello, Torchic! Hope you're having a lovely day today! Here I am for the catnip and I've read all of them in one sitting. I enjoyed them as much as I've enjoyed IAM. (I should probably do more reading soon. Haven't been doing much of that recently so this was a nice way to jumpstart my read list)
Glad to hear you enjoyed it!
Chapter 1 and 2 are much different from 3-6. As these two are talking about the start of Wallace's championhood (I'm gonna assume the two ending chapters of this will be when Steven returns).
Chappie 1 talks about a bit of Wallace's past trauma (presumably something to do with IAM) and about his anxiety of being interviewed to thousands– maybe millions of eyes! (So I understand why he's nervous) The end with Winona was cute and I liked it.
You can arrest Megalos, but you can't arrest the trauma he gave Wallace 🙃 Mental health is a struggle, but it's easier with friends (especially when they know your problems *cough cough* IAM WALLACE *cough cough*)
Oh and also I loved the surprise appearance of Blue and his ragtag group of 'second-best'.
I love them as much as you do! Expect to see them more :tongue:
Chapter 2 has nice exchanges between Steven and Wallace. Steven being supportive and Wallace being this mushed-up ball of anxiety and nerves. Lovely amount of whump and jokes.
Whump and jokes is the goodest to write
Chapter 3 to 6 are a bit more lighthearted than the first 2 and they were just great! I always enjoy some family-ish interactions between the champion and their E4, it's so fun to see relationships like these.

Chapter 3 has stoner based Sidney and did he really take the entire computer? Oh God. Chapter 4 with child-like ball of sunshine Phoebe and her cuddly ghosts were cute. Chapter 5 has Glacia being the sort of 'mother' of the group and it's cute to see her teaching Wallace some stuff. Then chapter 6 has the stoic Drake and his blunt but effective advice, although it seems like Wallace doesn't truly believe in that.
Fun exchange. Loving the dynamic between them.
Really fun to write the Elite Four. Pano was onto something.
So, um are they the reporters we beat up in the games? 'cause that's kinda how I'm imagining them as.
Yep
Probably just me being nitpicky but I find it a little weird that Wallace is referring to himself in both first person and third person here. Almost sounds like he's talking about Juan himself in the last 'him'.

Maybe try 'If I were Juan, I would be ashamed for mentoring (a fool/someone) like me.'
Good point. Fixed that. Thank you!
I don't know if this is intentional or not, but this kinda feels like a reference to Steven Universe. What with the whole Steven is a rose quartz and helps comfort people in the show.

A fun little reference if it is and a lovely coincidence if it isn't.
I have only watched people talk about Steven Universe and fandom discourse, so this was very much an unintentional reference lol.
Genderfluid Dusclops ftw!

(Jokes aside, that 'he' should be a 'she')
Heck yeah genderfluid Pokémon

(Thank you for pointing out that typo. And for the idea to headcanon Phoebe's Dusclops as genderfluid)
 
The being known as Wonder Girl is speaking I believe New

Just a Torchic

~ Utterly glorious ~
Location
Sootopolis City
Pronouns
she/they/he?
Partners
  1. torchic
  2. custom/torchic-blue
The being known as Wonder Girl is speaking I believe

Implied sexual content, references to psychiatric medication, references to toxic family, minor anxiety

6:00

The sun came up at 6 o’clock, along with the alarm clock, and along with Winona.

The other side of the bed was empty. Winona sighed. The days of early morning kisses and cuddles from Wallace were getting few and far between. Oh well. At least the two always had the nights to spend together.

But she couldn’t dwell on those thoughts for long. She had to fly to work at the Gym, and she had a routine of things to do before that.

Reluctantly, she loosened the embrace her blanket had around her and got out of bed. She had to be strong without anyone or anything to help her. She didn’t need to rely on the comforts of the night to shelter her from the storms of the day. She was Winona, Leader of the Hoenn Gym Leaders, Hoenn’s strongest Gym Leader, bird user taking flight into the world. She hadn’t gained any of those titles through luck or birthright, and she had to show she deserved every single one of them.

-

6:11

The bathroom was lit by the dim, blue glow of the predawn sky peeking through the blinds. Everything was some shade of bluish gray, but Winona could still make out the lines on the stick she held.

Or the one line. Just like everyday. Oh well. At least she could try to change that after work.

She tossed the stick in the empty box, reminding herself to ask Ataksak, her Swellow, to go to the pharmacy.

-

6:40

Breakfast was toast and miso, as always. She was improving her Greek a lot—enough to determine whether or not the morning papers had any degrading rumors or gossip in them. The worst of it was starting to die down, thank goodness. Maybe she would stop reading them and just immediately throw them in the recycling.

But then how would she get her news? Her PokéNav Plus? There was worse stuff on the internet. At least newspapers had editors.

She walked out onto the patio, where her Pokémon were idly chatting with each other. She tossed a handful of birdseed on the glazed stone tiles and beamed a bright smile at them. “Good morning, sweet darlings.” She looked up at the sky. The sun wasn’t visible from the crater of Sootopolis City yet, but the oranges, golds, and light blues of the sky were. “And good morning, beautiful sky! May today be a wonderful day!”

-

12:35

Winona couldn’t remember a slower day at the Gym in her life.

She only faced one challenger from nine to five: Ashley, her youngest and newest Gym Trainer. The girl had the drive and heart of a promising trainer, but for the time being, she couldn’t surpass her mentor.

In the afternoon, Winona let her Pokémon out to soar around the skies over the city. She stood on the battlefield, staring up at the windmills, staring up at the trainer’s platforms, staring up at the limitless skies and the endless beauty and opportunities and—

“Ms. Winona?”

Ashley was looking up at Winona. She was much shorter, only going up to Winona’s knee. Her blue hair was also short. There was still that spark of passion in her matching blue eyes that had been there during the battle.

“Ms. Winona, why are you so strong?”

Winona knelt down so she was near eye level with Ashley. “Well, I was once a kid just like you, and I wasn’t always… this strong. Sure, I won some battles, but I also lost a lot of battles.”

By “battles”, Winona was implying several things, but by using such a vague term as “battles”, it could apply to Ashley’s predicament.

Ashley gasped. “You lost battles?”

“You learn as much as you do from your losses as you do from your wins.”

Winona forced a small smile. If only she could take that advice to heart. But she was a leader, not a follower. If she could help a student, that would be enough.

-

16:22

Flannery called Winona, inviting her to meet her at the Well Tempered Pidgey after work ended at 17 o’clock. Such was customary between the two; it gave them time to catch up and chat about pleasant things and… well, it gave Winona what she didn’t have as a kid: friends. Flannery was the closest thing Winona had to what seemed to be a friend; Roxanne, Brawly, and the twins were more akin to her children than her friends. Wattson and Juan were more father figures, and Norman was somewhere between a father figure and an enigma. Flannery was the closest thing Winona had to a human friend in the “mutual affection without sexual or family relations” sense.

Was that what friendship was? The dictionary said so, but Winona wasn’t like Steven or Wallace. She was more about experiencing things to find out what they meant. There were so many things to experience: love, flying, freedom—

“Winona! Hey! Winona! Is your head up in the clouds again?”

She was back in the real world again: Warm light peeping through the lattice windows. Paper lanterns on the ceilings, plants and posters on the walls. Warm tea in her cup. Scones on her plate.

17:45

“Watcha thinking about?” Flannery teased.

“Birds.” It started as a lie, but now Winona was thinking about birds. Birds were so pretty. Birds were so—

“That’s really cool,” Flannery said. “What kind of birds are you thinking about?”

“That’s really cool.” “That’s really cool.” That was such a kind thing to say. So why was Winona’s mind whipping around like a Latios and Latias playing tag?

“Swellow.” Winona’s mind was spinning around with Latios, Latios, and Swellow. “Doesn’t Swellow have such pretty wings? And Ataksak’s emerald green wings are just—”

Creak! Ding ding! Slam!

A woman was staring at Winona, a woman with light blue hair, a woman of exactly sixty years, a woman with an all too familiar stare and frown.

“Winona,” she said.

“Winona?” Flannery whispered.

She should have known. She should have known that Rina would be in Hoenn. If Bugsy was here, surely Rina would always be nearby.

Winona stood up and grabbed her bag in one motion. Her steps were sharp and coordinated like a model’s.

“Young woman, you will speak to me right now!”

Winona wouldn’t. She never would. She would never let her or her take away the only fragments she had left to rebuild her life.

She slammed the door and kept walking. Blocked out the world in case her mother was yelling at her, in case the rumors were already starting to spread. Avoided thinking about people would say. Tuned into the wind and air around her.

“It’s okay,” they said with a gentle breeze of pine and petrichor. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

Winona took out her Pokénav Plus and started texting Flannery:



If that woman tries to speak to you, don’t let her

-Winona



What’s up

Who is that woman

-Flannery




You don’t need to know

-Winona




-

19:50



Hello, darling. I apologize for being so quiet today. My new duties have made me… quite busy today. I promise to make up for this tonight. (;
-Wallace




The living room was a decently-sized space made bigger by its high, domed roof. It had simple, white walls and simple, azure furniture that could easily be pushed to the side. Arched doorways led to four different rooms: the hallway, the parlor, the staircase, and the patio. The two things that stood out the most were the rug, decorated with patterns of cyan and navy and white, and the paintings of Water type Pokémon on the wall.

It was a big enough room for Winona to let out her nervous energy through dance.

The first few songs were high energy pop songs, the kind of music Winona had listened to as a late teen. She could jump, spin around, spread her arms and legs out, be free. The songs got slower and slower in tempo as the hours went on. Aurora and her kids, Hwanung and Amaterasu, joined in to dance at one point, but then it became late, and Aurora had to take her kids to bed.

Winona stayed out, though. She still had that stupid nervous energy.

-

22:44

Winona stopped the music. “Lilycove Waltz” was about to play. She couldn’t dance to that without Wallace. First of all, it was a waltz, a dance meant for two people. Second of all, it was their waltz, their first dance as a married couple. It was silly, perhaps even childish, but the song wasn’t complete without him. Maybe she would go to bed early and—

“Hello darling.”

Wallace was standing in the archway leading to the hallway. His cape was draped over his shoulders and fell to the floor like the waiting wings of a noble bird; his arms were out and ready to take Winona in a warm embrace.

“The wind and waves have kept us apart for far too long,” he whispered has he held her closer, “but I have returned, my love.”

Winona took Wallace’s hands and guided him over to the center of the living room. She let go of them—temporarily, so she could start up the music. Wallace's eyes lit up with a glow of nostalgia.

“Shall we?” she said with a faux curtsy.

Wallace dramatically bowed in return. “We shall.”

-

0:03

The pressure of Wallace’s head was soothing on Winona’s chest. His breathing was slow, stable, soothing. His fingers were lazily tracing across her bare skin.

“I missed you, darling.” Wallace’s voice was husky yet comforting. “I missed every part of you.”

“How was today?”

“It was fine. But why worry about today? Until tomorrow, let us only think about you and me.”

“Did you take your medication?”

Wallace was silent for a moment, then he quietly chuckled. “You win your little game. You've found a loophole.”

He kissed Winona’s cheek and she giggled, but then she forced herself to frown. “Did you?”

“I did.” He buried his face in her neck and peppered it with kisses. “Did you miss me, darling?”

Winona smiled. “I’ve told you, what, thirty one times tonight?”

“Say it a thirty second time. Did you miss me?”

Winona wrapped her arm around Wallace. “Of course I missed you.”

“I missed you too.”

Winona stayed up as long as she could. She wanted this moment to last as long as it could, because when it was all over, it would be just another day.
 
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