• Welcome to Thousand Roads! You're welcome to view discussions or read our stories without registering, but you'll need an account to join in our events, interact with other members, or post one of your own fics. Why not become a member of our community? We'd love to have you!

    Join now!

Pokémon Butterfree (one-shot, v3)

Butterfree

Dragonfree

Moderator
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partners
  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
2020-08-08-butterfree-small.png

Author's note: Hello, all! This story was originally written in 2012, then revised fairly significantly in 2020 and posted here. I got some good feedback on that one, and have been working on more extensive revisions on and off since. This, finally, is version three.

I would still appreciate any feedback, though I doubt I'll be making more major revisions to this from here anytime soon. Been fiddling with it for like a year; I need a break from thinking about it.

Content warnings: Abandonment/neglect, potential existential horror, a lot of guilt and self-loathing. This story does not contain violence or blood.

-------

Butterfree

“Metapod, just a bit more! Hang on!”

And at that moment, your cocoon split open in a burst of blinding, searing light, and with a flutter of elation in my chest, I knew that you were evolving. This was the dream; we’d been training tirelessly for a full week in the hope that you’d evolve, following my second loss against Brock. We hadn’t quite made it, and I’d figured it was a lost cause for now – but there you were. Somehow, at the time, it felt like the climax of everything we’d worked for, like there wasn’t a whole journey and seven more gyms ahead of us.

I remember, almost in slow motion, watching you crawl out and spread your fragile wings for the first time. I remember your wingtips quivering, the experimental twitch of your antennae, that glorious moment when you leapt up and took flight. I remember how you circled me with a giddy titter, flapping your wings playfully in my face like you couldn’t contain your excitement, and Brock’s Onix growled, and I said “Confusion!” and you cried out and then…

Of course I remember it. It was our first gym victory; how could I ever forget? I remember how the Onix roared and collapsed, the rumble under my feet as it hit the ground. I remember Brock’s calm voice telling it to return while the widest grin I had ever sported spread over my face. I remember literally jumping for joy, feeling as if my heart were about to explode, and you fluttering down towards me in a little exuberant loop before landing on my head and snuggling into my hair.

It feels like yesterday.

It also feels like a lifetime ago.

-------

Trainers aren’t supposed to have favorites, but you were my favorite. I loved Charmander and Pidgey and Nidoran to death too, of course, but I’d really wanted a Butterfree since I was a kid, and you were everything I’d dreamed of. Your enthusiasm was infectious, sheer giddiness radiating from you whenever you took flight, as if the week you’d spent as a Metapod had given you a permanent, unyielding appreciation for the novelty of flying. You’d cheer up the team when we were exhausted after a long day, always just brimming with energy. You had a knack for figuring out everyone’s soft spots: that Charmander liked snuggling, that Pidgey always felt better after an aerial chase, that Nidoran just needed space and someone to listen to him vent (or, at least, that’s what I assume he was mumbling at you when you’d go tilt your head and titter at him after a particularly bad loss). That all I needed when I was having a tough time was reassurance that you guys still loved me, and when you plomped down on my head with an affectionate little chitter, everything seemed okay again.

And in battle, when the others were struggling, I could always count on you. Your powder moves were indispensable for powerful foes. After you evolved, you were my strongest Pokémon by far, the pinnacle of my team. I don’t think I could ever explain just how proud I was every time I sent you out of your Pokéball and heard your defiant battle cry; every time a far larger Pokémon’s eyelids drooped as it breathed in your Sleep Powder and slumped helplessly on the ground; every time an opponent admitted defeat and you landed triumphantly on my head, giving me that cute little snuggle of yours. I earnestly felt like you were invincible. I imagined you putting Lance’s dragons to sleep, me carrying you on my head into the Hall of Fame to be crowned champions. I imagined it would be you and me on the covers of the newspapers, me grinning at the camera while you nibbled on my ear.

But then… you started losing. Just the occasional battle, at first. It hit me pretty hard when you were smacked into the ground by that hiker’s Onix and didn’t rise up again – the same Pokémon you had so handily defeated in Brock’s gym – but I knew you were at a severe type disadvantage, so all things considered it wasn’t that strange. But then it started happening more and more often. My other Pokémon evolved, not only catching up with you but overtaking you, and so did the Pokémon possessed by the other trainers I encountered. It started to dawn on me, slowly, that you were frail and not very fast. I tried buying carbos, offering them to everyone, but even then, more and more of the Pokémon we faced would land a heavy blow before you even got the chance to launch a Sleep Powder. Eventually, with a pit in my stomach, I gave in to my nagging suspicion that you were underperforming compared to the rest of my team and decided, silently, to start keeping track.

It was true. You fainted more often than any of them and finished the fewest battles on your own. And the margin was increasing.

Initially I think I explained it as being that I’d been overconfident, that I’d used you in too many battles you weren’t well suited to while I’d been more cautious with the others. I took care not to do that. It helped, a little, but eventually I had to face the fact that you just weren’t keeping up.

I wasn’t disappointed in you. It’s hard to explain, but it wasn’t like that. It broke my heart to realize you were falling behind, not because you weren’t good enough, but because I loved you and loved your joy when you won and loved being able to trust you to win any battle. It broke my heart to have to recall your unconscious form after you’d done your absolute best; to let my hand wander past your Pokéball when I knew you wouldn’t be able to handle my opponent’s next pick; to switch you out and send out Charizard instead because you couldn’t take another hit. And more than anything, it broke my heart to notice that you were becoming more nervous, your battle cry losing confidence – something I could hear in your voice because I knew you so well, even though you were trying not to let me hear it.

(I never told you that I could tell. I never told you that I could feel the increasing desperation in your victory snuggle. I never told you how I felt, or that I knew how you felt. I should have, but I didn’t. I don’t think I could quite admit it to myself at that point.)

I started sending you out less in battle, only when I was facing a Pokémon that seemed like particularly easy prey for you. I suspect you noticed, but you never complained, just kept up the cheerful attitude and unyielding support of everyone else. I know now that it must have broken your heart to see that loss of confidence in your abilities, but I didn’t see that far, back then.

And then I started rotating my team. That wasn’t because of you; I’d caught more than six Pokémon now, and like any trainer with serious ambitions I wanted to train the others and pick the most adept team for any situation. But it wasn’t long before you were rarely on my active team. I felt a little guilty every time I left you on the PC and wasn’t sure when I’d get you out again, but I would think to myself that after I’d just gotten past this route, or beaten this gym leader, or battled these trainers, I’d withdraw you and we’d find someplace where you could really shine and get some training in.

And at first I really did it.

But over time it got harder to afford that extra time, and I started to put it off as unexpected situations and challenges that I couldn’t just put on hold piled up. And the more I put it off, the more time you’d need to catch up. I promised myself that when I got a good chance, had a few days to spare, I’d take you back to this one patch of grass full of Grass/Poison-types where you’d excelled before and get you back on level with the rest of my team again so you could hold your own from there. But I just never had a good chance. I never had a few days to spare. That hovering silent promise of as soon as I can somehow stretched out for months.

And then, when things quieted down and I finally did have plenty of time and opportunity to go back, I simply forgot. I have no excuse. I had gotten caught up in my journey; I loved my other Pokémon, I was excited about getting Blaine’s badge before my friends, you had been pushed to the back of my mind, and I just forgot about it. When I remembered, I was already on the way to the Seafoam Islands to investigate rumours of Articuno sightings; I couldn’t just turn back.

The evening after, we camped in the mountains of Seafoam, cold and shivering after a close call down in the caves, listening to merciless waves crashing against the rocks far below. I looked up at Charizard as he was gazing out towards the stars, his tail flame flickering dimly against his side, and I thought of the way that when he was feeling melancholy you’d always latch onto his neck and nudge his chin, and he’d roll his eyes like he was above this, even as he smiled – and in that moment, I missed you so much I wanted to cry. If I could have, I’d have retrieved you right then and there with a thousand apologies ready. But we were on a rocky island in the middle of the ocean, probably the farthest you could get from a Pokémon Center in all of Kanto. We were alone, me and the six I’d brought with me, and that was that.

So I sighed and wrapped my arms around Charizard instead, and we silently consoled each other. I remember wondering, with a sting of guilt in my gut, whether I only missed you when I needed you. And I wondered if he missed you, too. He probably didn’t know how long it’d been since you’d been outside your ball – you shared a common crippling weakness, so once I started rotating the team you weren’t often on the active party together anyway. The thought of telling him was paralyzing.

Once we made it back to Fuchsia’s shores, I did finally go straight to the Pokémon Center to get you out of the PC. As I’d sat clinging to Lapras’s neck on the way there, I’d felt a pang of sick dread in my stomach every time I thought of it, a steadily growing pit of anxiety. What would you think? Would you hate me for leaving you for so long, for making you miss out on so much? For forgetting about you? By the time I was fighting the clunky old computer interface, trying to find you in my box, my hands were shaking.

Instead, when you emerged from the Pokéball, you were exactly as happy to see me as you ever had been – or at least it seemed like it at the time. I awkwardly apologized for how it’d been a while, and you just chittered happily and nibbled on my finger like any other time. I watched you fluttering around Charizard’s head in that teasing way you liked while he smiled and rolled his eyes, and I cautiously told you about our journeys to Cinnabar and Seafoam, and you listened, and your only real reaction was to snuggle up to him and then me when I told you about that day in the caves, trying to belatedly provide the comfort you couldn’t then. We had a nice day of training; you battled with what felt like more enthusiasm than usual, if anything, and I was so relieved that everything was okay, that nothing had happened. That, apparently, you still loved me just as much, still wanted to be on the team, didn’t really mind how long it had been.

And I left it at that. I didn’t actually try to ask you about it. After all that mounting dread, it was so nice, so comforting, to just believe that everything was fine after all, that I never had any reason to worry in the first place.

When I headed out on Route 15, hoping to backtrack to Lavender and through Rock Tunnel to check out that abandoned power plant I’d heard whispers of, I’d managed to brush off almost all the anxiety that had been gnawing at me since I first realized you were falling behind. In between battling lower-leveled Oddish and Venonat that you made short work of, you fluttered around my head, chittering enthusiastically, and I reminisced aloud about old times, dumb little moments we’d had together in the early days – that one time you accidentally stole someone else’s baseball cap that you thought was mine, the time that I got sick while on the road and you made a valiant attempt to Sleep Powder me so I could get some rest when the fever had me tossing and turning half the night. I wished I could understand whatever memories you were sharing, too, but you didn’t seem to mind, eager to tell me something you could barely contain your amusement over.

By the time we got to the power plant, you were fully caught up with everyone, and for the first time in a long time, when I deposited you back on the PC – I wasn’t about to bring you to a place full of powerful Electric-types, and I had other Pokémon who needed training too, after all – I didn’t feel bad about it.

We narrowly made it back outside after discovering Zapdos’s nest in the depths of the plant, laughing in relief, shaking with adrenaline, and I felt like I could take on the world. Riding that high of confidence, I got Pidgeot to fly us back to Viridian, where I triumphantly watched Gyarados blast Giovanni’s Rhydon to kingdom come with a Hydro Pump.

And as I left the gym grinning with badge in hand and looked out towards Route 22, it finally occurred to me, like a sudden punch to the gut, that it was time to make a decision on who’d be coming with me to the Indigo Plateau.

It was inevitable, of course, that only six of my Pokémon would be taking on the Elite Four – it always had been, and all of you knew that, that of course I loved all of you but we’d have to pick and choose, because it was the rules. And we’d all agreed of course that meant we should go for the best shot we could get. But it stung anyway, here so close to where I’d first caught you, to know as soon as I thought of it that Victory Road was just no place for a Butterfree. And after all the times I’d used to imagine entering the Hall of Fame with you on my head, so vivid in my mind – it felt like a childish fairy-tale fantasy now, and that realization burned.

Nobody wants to make decisions like this, but as the trainer, it was my responsibility to understand everyone’s abilities and how they’d all fit together, put together a strategy that would maximize our chances. After confirming with the team I’d picked that they were ready and willing, I pulled out the Pokémon I wouldn’t be bringing one by one, explained my thought process, asked if they wanted to be released or if they’d like to accompany me wherever we wound up heading to after the League. Most stayed; a few chose to leave, and I waved goodbye to them along with some of their best friends on the team, lump in my throat, thanking them for everything as they headed off for new adventures.

But as I stared at your name in the box, the last of them, I hesitated. I’d already picked out a team that didn’t include you, but now that it was real, it was a lot harder to make that call, that I no longer wanted you there for the climax of my journey after all the times we’d dreamed of it. I loved all my Pokémon, but you were special. I thought of all the memories we’d been sharing the other day, and imagined your antennae drooping, waving goodbye for the last time, and a cold hand clutched at my insides and refused to let go.

And as long as you were still there, it could still happen. I could take you out after we’d gotten through Victory Road, get you caught up with the others again, and just do it, challenge the Elite Four with you for real. Maybe we’d even win, just like we’d always imagined.

I don’t know if I ever really believed that; it wasn’t like I picked out a team member you’d be replacing. But it was such a striking nostalgic thought, lodged somewhere deep in my heart, that I couldn’t quite dismiss it either – couldn’t quite let go of it for good by telling you it wasn’t happening.

I agonized, and then I just left you there, in the box, safe, where I could put off deciding. I imagined I’d just figure it out later, closer, when I’d had more time to think.

By the time I finally stumbled through the doors of the Pokémon League HQ, weeks later, exhausted and stressed and shaking after getting lost in a deep, dark maze of tunnels for several days after a cave-in, though, I didn’t have the energy to do any thinking at all. I was already late to sign up; I just hastily scribbled down the team I’d picked out, the ones I’d been through the cave with. The ones I’d always meant to use.

I became champion with Charizard by my side. I was ecstatic. Ultimately, those original dreams, the image of you buried in my hair in the Hall of Fame, had long ago given way to different fantasies: a triumphant victory flight with my starter under the starlight, looking over the Kanto region’s cities like quaint little model towns and feeling like the world was ours. And that was everything I’d hoped for. I hadn’t really thought of you much at all since that day in Viridian, in the excitement and chaos of it all. When I finally did, it was when I was back home, being congratulated by my mom.

And again, shame burned up my insides. It dawned on me, horribly, that you didn’t even know I’d gone to the League yet. After leaving you behind for it, despite our early dreams, I hadn’t even told you, or remembered you in time to let you celebrate with me. And there wasn’t even a connected public PC in Pallet – I couldn’t get you out now. I’d have to go to Viridian or Cinnabar, just to send you out and tell you you’d missed it all, that I’d forgotten about you again.

The next day, I stood by the computer in the Cinnabar Pokémon Center, fingers fiddling anxiously with a peeling sticker on the side of it as it loaded up the box, far too slowly. The Sevii Islands ferry ticket I’d been gifted was clutched in my other palm, half-crumpled and damp with sweat. My eyes stared past the screen, out of focus, not quite reading the list of Pokémon or your name that I knew was there. The ferry was leaving in ten minutes, and they didn’t let you have Pokémon out on the Seagallop; did I even have time? What kind of conversation would that be – hey, sorry, you missed the League, and I have to go now, bye?

After an agonizing minute, still unable to get my eyes to focus on your name, I hit the logout button and ran out to catch the ferry. I wanted to be able to make it up to you somehow when I got you out – not just tell you you’d been forgotten like a piece of trash before putting you back in a ball to think about it. And after all, for you, on the PC, there wouldn’t be much of a difference between sooner and a little later, would there? You hadn’t minded, back when I’d gotten you out in Fuchsia, after everything. I clung to that memory, how easily we’d picked up like nothing had happened then. You’d be fine, I told myself, so long as I made it up to you.

And yet, as I clutched the railing on the boat, the cold wind whipping my hair, I wasn’t at all sure how I was going to do that. Train you up again – for what? There were more rumours of legendary Pokémon up on One Island, but I couldn’t exactly expect you to fight Moltres. Take you out, train you meaninglessly, just to have to eventually put you back on the PC again for any fight that was important, back to square one? Keep giving you extra training so you could keep up, a constant reminder that you just weren’t good enough without it?

This time, when I forgot, I didn’t really forget. There were times, when I was running errands around the islands, that I thought of you and how I was going to get you out, and the anxious pit opened, and I brushed the thought off as quickly as possible with a yeah, later that I knew was hollow, deep down. It was a horrible kind of relief when I realized, after heading out of town again, that I still hadn’t done it, even without exactly deciding not to. And I could have turned back, then, but I didn’t. I imagined some sorry excuse, that turning back would delay me too much, that I had to wait until I had some way to make it up to you, that it didn’t have to be now because it’d make no difference to you anyway. You’d been fine in Fuchsia, I thought again and again.

I told myself I’d do it later.

I kept telling myself that and brushing it off, until I stopped thinking of it at all.

It’s been six years.

-------

And now, I’m finally standing here, facing the sunset, on the road leading to Viridian Forest, right where I first met you that fateful day I headed out on my journey.

The breeze is light and cool, like it was that day. I still remember you, as a Caterpie, crawling out eagerly from behind that lone tree by the left side of the road, my first challenger and my first catch. Now all I can think is that you probably should have stayed hidden, evolved on your own time, and maybe gotten another trainer, a nice bug catcher or somebody, who wouldn’t have betrayed you like I did.

My hand trembles as I reach for your Pokéball. The scratches and tiny dents in its surface are nostalgically familiar; when I got it out I hadn’t seen this ball in so long I was surprised at how worn it was, but I guess I always remembered somewhere in the back of my mind, had a faint ghost of a memory of the sensation of holding it and rolling it between my fingers. This is the last time I’ll hold it like this, I realize, and it stings.

I press the button, and the ball maximizes in my hand. A part of me is still hesitant, still wants to go back and hand your ball to the Pokémon Center staff, plead with them to handle releasing you, so I can just pretend it never happened – but that’s not an option. I know that now.

(In the back of my mind I always half-expected the box inspectors to come after me eventually, take the burden of it away from me, but they never did. It can’t be luck; I expect they just haven’t been very thorough, when I’m the champion and everyone knows how much I love my Pokémon. So many have stopped on my team for a few months before parting ways – nobody would suspect one of my boxes held a single Pokémon who hadn’t been out in years. Part of me wants to blame them, for not doing their jobs like they were meant to. But there’s only one person who deserves the blame here.)

I take a deep breath. With guilt clenching in my gut, I drop the ball onto the ground, and you emerge from it in the air, facing away from me. I watch, unable to speak, as you scan the area for an opponent, then flutter in a half-circle and turn to look at me.

Your face can’t form expressions like a human’s can, but I can see anyway in the slight tilt of your head, the confused twitching of your antennae, the slight slowing of your wing flaps, that it takes you a moment to recognize me. That wrenches at my heart more than anything; suddenly it occurs to me that with your muddled sense of time on the PC, your first realization of how long it’s been is seeing me suddenly a teenager in place of the child that you knew. You hover there silently for a second, just staring at me with those unblinking red compound eyes; I feel as if I see accusation in them anyway. I try to imagine what must be going through your mind, what it might feel like to realize you’ve been in stasis for years, that everyone you knew has just moved on without you – but I can’t even begin to comprehend it.

“I’m sorry, Butterfree,” I whisper; my voice is hoarse, and as I say it, tears prick at the corners of my eyes. “I should have done this long ago.”

It’s painful to speak, so I point the ball back at you and press the button, showing you that nothing happens, that I’ve deactivated the Pokéball. I throw it away; it bounces off the ground and comes to a rest by the roadside. You stare at it for a second, then look back at me.

“I kept telling myself I’d keep training you,” I say, fighting the urge to avert my eyes; this whole time I’ve been refusing to face you, and I can’t do that anymore. “And I never did. I released the others I couldn’t get the chance to continue training, so they could move on and have a life, but not you. I could never accept that you’d be better off without me. But you would, and pretending for so long was selfish. It was… it was cruel. I’m so sorry.”

You stare at me for a moment more, and then you turn abruptly and flutter upwards, circling a few times in the sky for the first time in six years – six years that you never even knew. It’s not the lazy sort of playful flutter I remember; you’re agitated, flying in quick, tense swoops. I try to swallow the lump in my throat, but I can’t; my mind is full of every time I avoided using you, every time I put off training you, every time I remembered you and realized I hadn’t thought about you for weeks and then pushed the thought away again because it was easier. It’s an aching, suffocating feeling; opportunities lost, potential wasted, friendship neglected.

I expect you to turn in the direction of the forest and fly off, but you don’t. You slow down, looking back at me, hesitating. My lip trembles, tears fighting to escape; I wish burningly that you’d just leave before I lose my composure.

Instead, you stop, antennae twitching, take a dive, land on my head and bury yourself in my hair. A thousand memories blend together, guilt mixes with triumph and joy and love; everything shatters to pieces inside me, and I break into sobs as my resolve gives way.

“I’ll make it up to you,” I say without thinking, my voice thick and strained. “We’ll train and be together and make everything the way it was supposed to be and I’ll never leave you behind again – please don’t leave, I just…”

You don’t. You stay, nibbling lightly at me, a comforting weight to remind me you’re still there, while I cry and cry and can’t stop. You stay as I run out of tears and just stand there shaking. You stay while I finally collect myself, wipe my face and take a few deep breaths. I don’t deserve your forgiveness but you stay anyway, and a part of me hates that, wishes you’d just hate me as much as I do so I can stop feeling so undeserving.

“I’m sorry,” I say when I regain the ability to talk, staring unseeingly at the pink-tinged clouds in the distance. “That was… I shouldn’t have said that. It’s your life. I’ve taken enough of it away from you already. I have no right to want anything from you. And I don’t. I just want you to be happy.”

You snuggle up to me again, like you’re fine and everything’s okay now. There’s a burning feeling in my throat as I swallow. Everything is not okay. Do you not understand what happened? Didn’t I explain well enough? I reach up, pull you as carefully as I can off my head and let your wings take over to hover in front of me. “Butterfree, it’s been six years. You were falling behind and I started treating training you like a chore that I put off and forgot about. I went to the League without you and didn’t even tell you about it. And then I couldn’t admit it to you, so I just… left you there.”

And don’t you see how selfish that was? Don’t you see that a real friend would never do something like that?

There is a pause. Your antennae droop as you look away, and I immediately wish I hadn’t brought up your battle performance; it seems like I’m blaming you for it. “No, no, it wasn’t your fault,” I add quickly. “I was being impatient and it was unfair. I should have just…”

I trail off, my chest tightening again. Back then, I never did manage to figure out if there was anything I should have just done. That was part of the battle I had with myself after boxing you. Would you have been happier if I’d given you constant extra training, left you achingly aware that you couldn’t just be part of the team like the others without holding me back? If I’d continued to send you out only against the weakest of opponents? If I’d continued as normal, brought you to all those fights you couldn’t win, and you’d just gone on being pummeled and getting more nervous about battling until you dreaded it altogether? If I’d taken you out and told you that you just weren’t strong enough to keep up and released you? Every option just felt like it’d make things worse – every option but the one where you stayed in the box, where I couldn’t hurt you any more than I already had. (Or so I silently pretended – as if leaving you in stasis for years wasn’t hurting you.)

But growing up gives you perspective, makes a lot of things that seemed simple a lot more complicated, and a lot of things that seemed hopelessly complicated a lot simpler. I take a deep breath. “What I should have done is I should have tried to talk to you, Butterfree. We should have talked about it. Did you know, I – I could see that you weren’t really having fun battling anymore? You were losing your enthusiasm, I could tell, and instead of asking you about it I just kept dragging you on trying to – to make sure you just wouldn’t lose as much. Like that’d fix it.” I hate saying that; I feel so, so stupid, more so with every new thing I force myself to admit to. “I – can we talk about it now? Unless you want to just go. You don’t owe me anything.”

You seem a bit startled, looking at me hesitantly again, but you stay hovering in front of me anyway. Part of me still kind of wishes you’d just leave; something feels unjust about you still being here, listening to me. But this seems to be what you want, and the least I can do is respect that.

“Back in Fuchsia,” I begin after a moment, swallowing. “You were hurt, weren’t you? I thought you seemed fine because it was what I wanted to think.” And I was just a kid – but that’s not an excuse. “But you were just… trying not to show it, weren’t you? Taking care of us first, because it’s what you always do.”

You look away again, your wing flaps slowing a little. Not an affirmation exactly, but definitely not a denial. Not that I needed affirmation; I realized a long time ago that something hadn’t been quite right about it, that if you’d really been okay you wouldn’t actually have acted so doggedly like nothing had happened.

“I’m sorry. I should’ve been paying attention.” My throat’s still burning. What more can I say? I wish you could talk, that I could just shut up and listen to you. I look away and shake my head. “I should’ve just… asked what you wanted. What did you want? Did you even want to keep battling?”

You pause to think about it. Then flap from side to side in a small, noncommittal shrug, still not quite looking at me.

“You used to love it, though, right? That’s the thing, I didn’t want you to give up on something you’d loved, but it just…”

You do that same indifferent motion again. “What, you didn’t? But you always acted so…”

You flutter straight at me and bump against my forehead, insistently. At first I can’t make sense of it.

“…Because of me?”

But it makes sense, now that I think about it, if what you enjoyed about battling was mainly about doing your best for my sake. You always did everything for others and not for yourself. You lost your enthusiasm because you thought you were letting me down, not because you hated losing. And of course when my reaction was to let you battle less and give you intermittent special training sessions just to keep up with the rest of the team, it only made it worse.

For a few seconds I can’t quite speak; I just stand there, feeling like a colossal jerk, a mixture of emotions fighting within my brain. “Butterfree,” I finally manage to say, “you shouldn’t… I don’t care how you do in battle.” That feels like such a hollow thing to say now. If I really didn’t care, I could have taken you to the League, couldn’t I? “Maybe I did back then, I don’t know, I was stupid – but even if I did, you don’t need to do anything just to make me happy. Is that… is that why you’re still here?” The way you turned around earlier, when I was about to cry, and immediately you were there to comfort me – was that just more of the same, you compulsively putting everyone else’s needs before your own? Even while trying to apologize to you, I still wasn’t paying attention.

Tears are pricking at my eyes again, and you fly at me to snuggle into my hair. My mind is numb. I pick you off my head so I can look into your eyes. “Butterfree, I mean it. What do you want? Do you actually want to be here, or are you just trying to make me feel better? You’ve gone this whole time doing things for me, and that’s… I’m grateful for that but I need to know you’re not doing this for my sake. If what you want is to fly away from here right now, then do it. I’ll be happy watching you go, I promise. And even if I wouldn’t be, you should still do it. You – you’re allowed to just want things for yourself.”

You look up at me silently for a few seconds. That’s actually reassuring; it indicates you’re really thinking about it, not just automatically defaulting to sticking with me no matter what. You flap your wings slowly, and I let go of you, watch you turn away and stare towards the forest as you consider it.

You flutter over to the tree where I caught you, and my breath catches in my throat, but I follow with hesitant steps as you circle the tree. I can see now that there are two other Butterfree there, resting in the boughs. You chirp a happy greeting, and they look up; one flies straight into you while the other circles nearby. You gently bump heads a couple times, a familiar gesture that makes my chest clench. After a moment the three of you settle back down on the branches of the tree and begin a chittering back-and-forth. My heart actually lifts, for the first time since I went to retrieve your ball. You’ve still got friends here. You really would be happy in the wild.

I smile at you, and I mean it. But just as I’m starting to turn around to leave you to it, you cry out again, take off from the branch and flutter towards me.

“…Are you sure?”

You hover cautiously, still looking at me. Waiting for something. I’m not sure what, for a few seconds. I still don’t feel right about the idea of taking you with me again; even if it’s what you want, I can’t shake the feeling that it shouldn’t be. It could all have been avoided if I’d paid better attention, or tried to understand you more fully, or just talked to you instead of leaving you on the PC so I wouldn’t have to – if I’d really treated you like someone who had feelings, instead of something that induced feelings in me.

But this is about you, not me. And I really do want you to be happy.

I take a deep breath. “If you still want to come with me, not for me but for you, then you can.” And what? That’s not enough. Why would you just want that, after everything? “If you do, then… you don’t have to battle. We can just… if you want, you can just come along and… not battle. Or you can battle, if you want. Just tell me if you want to battle and…” I shake my head, inhaling sharply. None of that’s the real point.

“I’m never putting you on the PC again without asking and clearing how long. I’ll listen to you, and pay attention, and talk to you about anything that involves you. And – if anything’s wrong, and I don’t realize, please let me know. I want you to tell me, because if I hurt you again I’ll never forgive myself. I’ll try to notice even if you haven’t said anything, but if I’m an idiot again, please tell me. Tell me I’m being an idiot.” There’s a lump in my throat again, my voice shaking. “But – Butterfree, if you’d rather go, just go. Don’t stay with me just to be nice. I don’t – I don’t get it. Why are you still being nice to me, after what I did? You shouldn’t be nice to me when I–”

There are tears running down my cheeks by now and I don’t even care. You dive down at me again, and I actually flinch away, expecting another round of undeserved comfort.

Instead, you give me a little bonk on the forehead. I blink stupidly, and you give me another. I stare at you for a second, numb. And then I realize. It’s you, telling me I’m being an idiot.

Some twisted cord of wound-up tension snaps and unravels within me, and before I know it I’ve somehow cracked a smile, chuckling through the tears. You plomp down firmly on my head and nibble at my ear. I still don’t really understand how you could forgive me so easily. But I’ll do everything I can to deserve your forgiveness. It’s the least I can do.

I take another deep breath, wiping my eyes. “You know, it seemed like you were having fun with your friends.” Your family? Not sure. Some Butterfree that you know. I wonder if they were Caterpie last time you saw them – there’s another sting in my gut. “I’ve been wanting to check out the Trainer House – if you want to stay and catch up a bit more, I could go do that and come pick you up after?”

You seem surprised for a moment, like it hadn’t even occurred to you. But then you give an excited titter and snuggle into my hair for a moment before fluttering back towards the tree. And that… makes me happy.

-------

The others did miss you. They were surprised, of course – they probably assumed, like everyone else, that I’d released you long ago and there just hadn’t been a chance to let them say goodbye. It took some courage to work myself up to telling them what had happened – I don’t know what you might have told them, if anything, but I had to face up to it myself.

I braced myself for them to be angry, want to leave me. Nidoking stormed off partway through my explanation, and my stomach twisted into a knot but I didn’t try to stop him, didn’t expect him to come back, even though you flew after him. Charizard interrogated me on it for a while in intimidating growls that had me convinced he was leaving, too, but in the end he just pulled me close with a quiet sigh while I cried into his shoulder. And the next morning, when I was about to return to the Pokémon Center to deactivate Nidoking’s ball, he was back; wary, quiet, but back, with you sitting on his shoulder. I don’t know what you told him, but I told him I’d do everything I could to earn his trust back, too, and slowly, over time, he started to relax around me again.

I got used to having you back. It’s easy to almost forget what I did to you when you’re there, keeping me company, cheering my team on, as if those six years never happened. You really do seem happy, and your joy warms my heart, like it always did. I still don’t quite understand, but maybe I don’t have to understand. Maybe this is just who you are – who you want to be.

You don’t battle much; you usually seem to have more fun watching, nestling comfortably on my head and flapping your wings eagerly when the others score powerful hits. But now and then, on a whim, you take off and ask to take part. And sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but it doesn’t really matter, now. You’re thrilled either way, and so long as you are, so am I.

Some of the others like to watch sometimes, too – not that I hadn’t let them before if they wanted to, but I get the sense you broke the ice a little, made it easier for them to decide to sit one out. Charizard snorted when I asked, fighter that he is – but I finally convinced him he doesn’t have to fight those Water-type trainers that make him nervous, either.

Trainers aren’t supposed to have favorites. And that’s fair. Having a favorite is something you do as a kid, before you really get to know your Pokémon. But you’re incredibly important to me, and I’ll never forget that again. Every day I strive to deserve the confidence you decided to place in me for this second chance.

And every time you disagree with my plans, or call me on my nonsense with a playful bonk on the head, I feel a little better.
 
Last edited:

Phoenixsong

smell ya later.
Partners
  1. custom/skiddo-steplively
  2. custom/skiddo-phoenixsong2
  3. custom/skiddo-phoenixsong3
  4. custom/skiddo-iametrine
  5. custom/skiddo-coolshades
  6. custom/skiddo-rudolph
  7. custom/skiddo-sleepytime
I don't believe I ever got around to commenting on either of the previous versions, but I enjoyed them both a great deal. This really does feel like a definitive version: just as effective a gut-punch overall, but extremely well–shored up by the additions you've made here.

The emotional consequences of the trainer's actions feel a lot stronger. I appreciate the clarity over why anyone would consider it okay to leave a pokémon boxed for so long, i.e., they wouldn't, and therefore that makes what happened to Butterfree even worse. And the extra detail added by the memories does a great job establishing the trainer's guilt spiral. I can't help but wonder whether it's really likely that no one would notice that a pokémon's been boxed for six years, but I suppose proving that it wasn't just a release would require that the people doing the checking be able to see into a trainer's storage account, rather than just happening to realize "hey, we haven't seen Butterfree with you in a while..."? And maybe that is or isn't a whole other privacy can of worms. Either way, it is definitely a welcome step forward in keeping the focus on storage as something that's unsettling about the trainer's treatment of Butterfree specifically, rather than being an unsettling facet of the system as a whole. Mistakes and oversights do happen, after all!

Nidoking being furious and nearly leaving after learning what happened to Butterfree was a great touch, and in general the inclusion of more moments with the rest of the team makes the situation feel much less like everything revolves around the trainer and Butterfree in a vacuum (however much the point of the story is in fact them wrestling with whether what they want or what Butterfree wants is more important.) Showing that what the trainer is learning really extends to all of their pokémon, not just the one who went through the worst of it—because after all, who's to say it couldn't also have happened to them if things had been slightly different!—feels a lot better as an ending. Also, I have a soft spot for trainers crying into their pokémon's shoulders, haha.

It's possible I'm misremembering the 2020 revision, but it also feels like Butterfree gets to be a bit more assertive here, even in their forgiveness. Unfortunately I can't really pick out examples without combing through that one again, but whatever you might've tweaked, it seems like it worked!

Just a few notable moments from this:

And more than anything, it broke my heart to notice that you were becoming more nervous, your battle cry losing confidence – something I could hear in your voice because I knew you so well, even though you were trying not to let me hear it.

my heart, is also broken, by this line ;-; They're both trying and failing to deceive one another here in their desperate need to pretend everything's still great about this situation for the other's sake.

The evening after, we camped in the mountains of Seafoam, cold and shivering after a close call down in the caves, listening to merciless waves crashing against the rocks far below. I looked up at Charizard as he was gazing out towards the stars, his tail flame flickering dimly against his side, and I thought of the way that when he was feeling melancholy you’d always latch onto his neck and nudge his chin, and he’d roll his eyes like he was above this, even as he smiled – and in that moment, I missed you so much I wanted to cry. If I could have, I’d have retrieved you right then and there with a thousand apologies ready. But we were on a rocky island in the middle of the ocean, probably the farthest you could get from a Pokémon Center in all of Kanto. We were alone, me and the six I’d brought with me, and that was that.

So I sighed and wrapped my arms around Charizard instead, and we silently consoled each other. I remember wondering, with a sting of guilt in my gut, whether I only missed you when I needed you. And I wondered if he missed you, too. He probably didn’t know how long it’d been since you’d been outside your ball – you shared a common crippling weakness, so once I started rotating the team you weren’t often on the active party together anyway. The thought of telling him was paralyzing.

This is such a wonderful addition. Gives the trainer's other pokémon some life, not only with the trainer but with one another, and makes it starkly clear that Butterfree isn't the only one affected (whether Charizard knows it or not) by the trainer's behavior.

Your face can’t form expressions like a human can, but I can see anyway in the slight tilt of your head, the confused twitching of your antennae, the slight slowing of your wing flaps, that it takes you a moment to recognize me.

This has always been one of the more powerful lines in the fic, both in the sense that it shows how well the trainer can read Butterfree's emotions even after all this time themselves, and, of course, that moment of realization of the way things have changed in what feels like an instant.

You hover there silently for a second, just staring at me with those unblinking red compound eyes; I feel as if I see accusation in them, but I’m probably projecting.

Haa. I almost kinda wish the "but I'm probably projecting" wasn't there; it'd hammer home that the trainer is still in the mindset of "I do not deserve to be forgiven and do not understand how Butterfree possibly could forgive me".

Thank you for taking the time to revise this and share the updated version! It's been an affecting, emotional story even back in the early 2012 days, and this version in particular feels very solid and satisfying to read. I hope you feel that the revisions are well worth it, because they are!
 

ShiniGojira

Multiversal Extraordinaire
Location
Stranded In The Gaps between Multiverses
Pronouns
He/him/they/her
Partners
  1. custom/zorua-gojira
Man, this was so... so damn good. I had only meant to check out on this after hearing things about it but after reading this, it made me wish I'd read those earlier revisions just because of all the emotions this made me feel.

God. The characters, their reactions, the trainer's actions, the consequences, the anxiety and fear of rejection. This made for such a heart-wrenching experience. It's so damn wonderful.

The start with Metapod evolving and beating Brock, then describing how Butterfree worked along the trainer's team and their relationships. The slow build-up and the sudden realization of Butterfree being slowly but surely overtaken by the others. They worked so well to convey the reason for the trainer's reluctance in boxing Butterfree. Then we get the trainer's thoughts and regrets as they journey on, the short scene with the trainer seeing his teammates' reactions to his actions were cute and breathed life into them. The resolution with the trainer and Butterfree was wonderful and perfectly conveyed the anxiety and fears of the trainer while they resolve their past issues. Then the reactions of their other members made it feel much more powerful.

The trainer thinking on their mistakes and realising how much they screwed up, and then having it all be resolved with Butterfree accepting and forgiving them was lovely.

I can't believe how good you are at making this so emotional and satisfying to read through. Makes me wonder how good your other fics and revisions are.

Take care! I wish you a marvelous day!
 

slamdunkrai

famously normal about the moon fellows
Pronouns
they/them
Partners
  1. darkrai
Heyo! I thought I'd check this out for Blitz given the current theme and all. It's my first exposure to both this fic across any of its versions, and your work as a whole, honestly. I should rectify that second point because I absolutely loved this one! It's bittersweet, and hits all the notes that it needs to.

I think it's structured really well, which is the main strength that everything else builds off: the first bit is a retrospective of their journey together, starting when things were good and simple in those early days and then slowly continuing as things became difficult, when Butterfree became outmatched and no longer practical to keep around purely from the perspective of battling — a perspective that our protagonist is very concerned with, on a quest to become Champion and all. Ultimately, our protag's inability to face the decision they need to becomes apparent; they're young, they have all the time in the world, and Butterfree won't mind that much because ultimately they're going to make the right decision. Except, actually, inaction is an action in itself, and now Butterfree has spent six years in a PC. Anyway, the second part of this is that long overdue meeting where the protag asks Butterfree what they want, feeling absolutely torn up over it; Butterfree, despite taking a moment to get used to their newly grown-up friend (a really great touch!), decides that, ultimately, they're still friends. The third part is the epilogue. As has been commented on before, it is a great detail to have the rest of the team get legitimately mad at how this has transpired, because it's, y'know, neglect.

There's a few things that this story touches on that I really liked, which I'll quickly outline before I get to some individual line responses:

  • The appeal and tragic nature of those early-game bug-types: the caterpie line in particular looks really sweet, and is the archetype for this. They're excellent for those early days of your journey, and in Butterfree's case very handy with their various powders, even if those early rock-type gyms do get in the way of that a little. Alas, then the rest of your team comes of age.
  • This reading like a metaphor for growing up: eventually, you're expected (and feel compelled) to put those sentimental things you used to love away, because they simply won't serve you like they used to. With pokémon, you have the option to let them go, which isn't really discussed enough in the games and a lot of your more conventional journeyfic, imo, but is a noble and good option through the lens of letting a relationship that's no longer beneficial for either party end. Of course, Butterfree (though a living being who the protag has objectively wronged) is still there and forgives him, and the story ends on that note of appreciating the same things you used to, just in a different way.
  • The difficulty of letting go for both parties: the protag, at first, feels that their wrongs mean they're no longer worthy of that friendship, and thus have to end things so both can move on. Of course, as they realise, this is less important than giving Butterfree the option to choose a destiny, and Butterfree just wants their old friend to be happy; I mean, they know they've done something wrong in leaving Butterfree alone for that long.

I kept telling myself that and brushing it off, until I stopped thinking of it at all.

It’s been six years.
Very effective reveal — everything before this is clearly in the past, but it's not clear how long ago; this is a pretty brutal gut punch. Great stuff.

It was inevitable, of course, that only six of my Pokémon would be taking on the Elite Four – it always had been, and all of you knew that, that of course I loved all of you but we’d have to pick and choose, because it was the rules. And we’d all agreed of course that meant we should go for the best shot we could get. But it stung anyway, here so close to where I’d first caught you, to know as soon as I thought of it that Victory Road was just no place for a Butterfree. And after all the times I’d used to imagine entering the Hall of Fame with you on my head, so vivid in my mind – it felt like a childish fantasy now, and that realization burned.
Growing up and leaving your childish dreams behind sucks, man :'(

(Ordinarily this would never even have been allowed to happen. There are inspections, safeguards, for potentially neglected PC boxes. But I’m the champion, and everyone knows how much I love my Pokémon.
Not 100% sure about this bit. Feels like a piece of biting irony/self-deprecation that doesn't quite land.

Every option just felt like it’d make things worse – every option but the one where you stayed in the box, where I couldn’t hurt you. (Or so I silently pretended – as if leaving you in stasis for years wasn’t hurting you.)
I like this a lot. Displays the thought process that defines our protagonist's mistakes in a neat and logical fashion: "either you stay and things continue to get worse, or you leave and I can't make my wrongs up to you, so I'll simply not act until I have a good option [no good options appear, time continues to pass] wait no that'll also hurt you"

“Butterfree,” I finally manage to say, “you shouldn’t… I don’t care how you do in battle.” That feels like such a hollow thing to say now. If I really didn’t care, I could have taken you to the League, couldn’t I? “Maybe I did back then, I don’t know, I was stupid – but even if I did, you don’t need to do anything just to make me happy. Is that… is that why you’re still here?”
Similarly: "I don't care — actually, that's not the issue, the issue is that I did care in the past; it doesn't matter now, your worth to me is not defined by this — why are you here, do you know this?"

There are tears running down my cheeks by now and I don’t even care. You dive down at me again, and I actually flinch away, expecting another round of undeserved comfort.

Instead, you give me a little bonk on the forehead. I blink stupidly, and you give me another. I stare at you for a second, numb. And then I realize. It’s you, telling me I’m being an idiot.
Pokémon are such observant creatures, even if their means of communication are not the clearest :')

This is slightly unorganised, but I digress; I feel like it gets across pretty much everything that I loved about this. It's really excellent, and I'm very glad I read it! :>
 

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. swampert
  3. ho-oh
  4. crobat
  5. orbeetle
Hey there! I haven't yet checked out this new version of Butterfree. Given that its one of my favorite one-shots, I had to stop by again.

I'll start by syaing that thanks to my spotty memory, I don't actually know whats changed specifically. I did however, go back and skim the original Butterfree at light speed.

I have to say, I really like this version. I always get a little nervous about 'rewrites/revisions' of things, because I tend to attached to the original. However, everything you added only improved the themes and narrative of Butterfree!

For starters, I notice a lot of little areas where your prose is polished, or punchier. For example:

It feels like yesterday.

It also feels like a lifetime ago.
I kept telling myself that and brushing it off, until I stopped thinking of it at all.

It’s been six years.
Both of these lines were real gut punchers. They concisely make a terrifying and harsh point about what happened.

Second, I noticed that the story was a bit longer. I actually enjoyed the increased focus of certain parts. I believe perhaps the beginning was a bit longer, more details and descriptions, like showing Butterfree's evolution. Those details help add to the feeling of how the narrator really cared (cares) about Butterfree.

You also added a lot more length to the in-between. There was more buildup to the how he actually 'forgot' and ended up leaving poor Butterfree alone for six years. How it started with a few small thoughts and doubts, then slowly grew. How he didn't really mean too, he thought he was doing Butterfree a favor, he assumed he knew why Butterfree was upset. And this kind of led to a slippery slope where he kept procrastinating which.... made everything worse. The longer he waited the easier it was to justify just a little, put it off one more day (all for Butterfree's sake of course. Or was it his. HM!) until things just detiorated hopelessly.

There's a nice undercurrent here of how hard it is to face up to your problems and take responsibility. Because the protagonist couldn't bear the thought of explaining how he'd let things get so bad, he.... ended up letting things get bad. And worse. I really like the scene you added at Seafoam, showing how distressed the MC had become, and that he does regret it too. The whole situation really pulls at ones heart.

Finally, I think the ending also changed a little? Not sure, but either way, it always chokes me up. MC finally having to face Butterfree, breaking down, hating himself for it, only to find that sweet Butterfree, in their infinite kindness, found it in them to show forgiveness and understand. That rings to powerful to me, that even when some treated you poorly, even when they did something that you should be furious for, there's something powerful about extending forgiveness. MC truly tried to repent, own up to what he'd done, and change.

Bless Butterfree.

I also appreciate the revelation here that for Butterfree, it was never about winning or even purely battles. As a young kid, its understandable how MC jumped to that assumption, and felt bad because they thought Butterfree felt bad about the battles. But now they're older. Better. They know now that it was about Butterfree enjoying them. Their's something beautiful about that I think, the simplicity of companionship. And through that, Butterfree helped the MC too. Now Charizard feels like its okay to be honest, and so does the rest of the team.

Which I think ties into one of the other subtle core themes I see - honesty and the importance of listening. That a friendship is at its deepest and strongest when two people can be honest and vulnerable, share their feelings and come to a true understanding. The way Butterfree and MC did, and the way even Charizard was able to seemingly open up there at the end.

Anyways, I think this whole piece is lovely, and charming, and heartfelt. It speaks volumes about how people can change, not everything has to be bad, and there's hope.

Good story, I wanna snuggle Butterfree.
 

Negrek

No Gravity
Staff
Damn, this is different. And way better for it, I'd say! I think I may not have actually reviewed this at all in the past? That's kind of wild. But this revision does feel like a big step up, and what better time, eh?

I loved getting to see more of the narrator's other pokémon here and get a sense of their relationship to Buttefree! It does wonders for Butterfree's characterization and the sense that they're a person with agency, not one simply to be talked at and also for addressing that, yeah, what's going on here impacts them, too, and how they might think of their trainer. I'm also just a huge sucker for pokémon team dynamics in general. I also love how it seems to be Charizard who's developed the closest relationship with Butterfree, which what are the fucking odds, you know? :P The two of them and their snugglig, aww. Bringing in the other pokémon more is probably my #1 favorite decision in this revision!

I also think diving into the trainer's state of mind as the journey progresses and Butterfree is increasingly sidelined is a good one! The highlight additions for me here are the bit on Seafoam where the narrator realizes how much both they and Charizard miss Butterfree and the part with the Sevii Island ferry, which just had HUGE "been putting thing off for so long that the psychological barriers to doing it are so out of proportion to its difficulty that it's ludicrous" energy. And I know all too well that feeling of "I'll take care of that tomorrow for X extremely valid reason" and then "tomorrow" ends up being a decade later. Ask me about that e-mail I really want to reply to and have't replied to in over a year now, OOPS. It hits different, of course, when the thing that's been put off is a person and not, like, my taxes, but there's a lot in this section that hits uncomfortably close to home. We got a little of the excuses the narrator made for themselves in the previous version, but I think you do a much better job making their actions feel less careless/callous and both more understandable and rooted in some nasty psychological defenses.

At times during the middle of the recap of the narrator's journey things did feel a little draggy to me, though. I think it's because this section is largely summary, "I went here, I trained with you, it was good/bad, I felt some kind of way about it, I put you back in the box," etc. The best parts imo are ones where you reference some specific event and how it made the narrator feel, e.g. Butterfree's behavior after being let out in Fuchsia, rather than power through a series of things happening in general terms. For example, the paragraph about Route 15 is pretty much all summary; a concrete event, like a brief mention of one particular battle Butterfree had during the training break there would be more effective for showing progression than simply stating that Butterfree made quick progress and seemed happy about it. Or consider the paragraph covering Victory Road + the league. Does it add anything you wouldn't get by opening the E4 win paragraph with something like, "Two weeks later I was shaking as I walked through the doors to the Hall of Fame, Victory Road and the Elite Four behind me, Charizard at my side...?"

The extended talk with Butterfree was great, I think, and I like that this time around we already have a bit of a sense that Butterfree may have a "sacrificing self for others" problem that both may explain why they're so willing to continue hanging around with the narrator and also the narrator almost gives Butterfree a mini therapy session here, imploring them to stop living so much for others. It definitely shines a spotlight on how the narrator can never truly know that Butterfree is really sticking around from true desire and no sense of loyalty/obligation, raising the question of what it means to really respect their wishes, which I think adds a kind of spicy layer to all this, compounded by the difficulty of human/mon communication as presented here. I think there are a lot of different potential takes on this part of the story, which I think may be frustrating to the extent that you have a point you're making and some people may read something totally different into it, but to me it's usually much more interesting to have something that's open to interpretation rather than locked into the author's particular argument.

Ultimately I think there's always going to be some disagreement on whether the forgiveness feels "earned" (or if it matters that it's earned), if Butterfree takes everything seriously enough, etc. To me, yeah, I can buy it happening, and I don't feel horrible about it. Is Butterfree right to forgive the narrator for this really very serious neglect? idk, doesn't really feel like my place to say one way or the other, and I don't think that's the question that really matters here.

Some random notes:

For those couple months of my journey,
Which couple months?

(Ordinarily this would never even have been allowed to happen. There are inspections, safeguards, for potentially neglected PC boxes. But I’m the champion, and everyone knows how much I love my Pokémon. Everyone who knew I had you probably figures I released you years ago – like the many others who’ve stopped on my team for a few months and then left.)
Mmm, not sure that I like this addition. I totally know why it's in here--there are obviously horrifying implications if a pokémon can disappear into the storage system for six years and no one does anything about it--but "there are systems in place to deal with this, but nobody bothered me because I'm the champion" is still really yikes! To me it seems like hanging a lampshade on the issue here is only going to make people who otherwise might not have noticed anything amiss go, "Oh. Huh." and think about it. Really tought position here, and yeah, I don't really see a way out without compromising on something that's important to you: making the time period a lot less than six years, have the trainer need to dodge increasingly-pointed questions from Center staff etc., them having to actively do something like withdraw Butterfree's ball every month or whatever to avoid tripping an alert, and so on. To me, personally, this is more a story about the relationship between two people than the world they live in, so my personal approach would be to not address it and let people consider the world fucked up if they wanted. But I know you don't want that implication at all! I am not sure this approach really dodges it, though.

With guilt clenching at my gut
"Clenching at" is a bit odd; I'd go either "clutching at" or "clenching in" here, myself.

Your face can’t form expressions like a human can,
*human's (or alternatively "you" instead of "your face")

I don’t deserve your forgiveness but you stay anyway, and a part of me hates that, wishes you’d just hate me as much as I do so I can stop feeling so undeserving.
Because I'm me, this was probably one of my favorite parts, lol.

Every option just felt like it’d make things worse – every option but the one where you stayed in the box, where I couldn’t hurt you. (Or so I silently pretended – as if leaving you in stasis for years wasn’t hurting you.)
This was interesting to me, though. I hadn't really gotten this sense of self-loathing from the narrator previously--they were very avoidant and anxious about sending Butterfree out again, but I didn't get the vibe that they were avoiding that reunion out of a feeling that they'd hurt Butterfree by having it.

You flutter over to the tree where I caught you, and my breath catches in my throat, but I follow with hesitant steps as you circle the tree.
This is a nice sentiment, but I'm REALLY impressed that the narrator can recognize this particular tree after >6 years, heh. Perhaps mention some distinctive feature that lets them know this is the one?

Instead, you give me a little bonk on the forehead. I blink stupidly, and you give me another.
ITS TOO WHOLESOME AAAAAAAAAAAAA

Sorry, I think that turned out a little more complain-y than I expected! This really is a huge upgrade on the story imo, both in terms of reading experience and in terms of getting across what you wanted to. Head bonks best addition, A+++++ choice for cuteness. (Okay, so they were in there before, but I feel like they were better utilized here, lol.)

I know you put a ton of work into revising this, and I think it paid off in spades! Thanks for sharing this, and I think if you ever wanted to talk about the various changes you made with each revision and why it could be a lot of fun. But I'd also understand if you were done even glancing at this one for a good long time, heh. Nice work!
 

Dragonfree

Moderator
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partners
  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
Thank you all very much for the feedback so far! I'm glad it seems to have broadly landed and really appreciate all the insightful commentary on how the story came across and how you felt about it.

Some brief remarks where I had something more specific to say:

It's possible I'm misremembering the 2020 revision, but it also feels like Butterfree gets to be a bit more assertive here, even in their forgiveness. Unfortunately I can't really pick out examples without combing through that one again, but whatever you might've tweaked, it seems like it worked!
The most major changes in that regard are that Butterfree doesn't actually make a final decision to stay until the trainer has gone over how they'll do better in the future, and then their reaction afterward is this affectionate you're-being-an-idiot head-bonk, which I hoped would more effectively show Butterfree's taking their pleas for them to be more assertive seriously. I'm glad it landed better!

Haa. I almost kinda wish the "but I'm probably projecting" wasn't there; it'd hammer home that the trainer is still in the mindset of "I do not deserve to be forgiven and do not understand how Butterfree possibly could forgive me".
Yeah, that's a fair point. The main idea with it is that they know Butterfree literally can't look accusatory because their faces literally don't move, at all. But explicitly pointing out it's probably projection probably detracts a little, compared to if it were more of an "even though your eyes are static, I feel as if I see accusation in them" sort of deal? Worth looking at, in any case.

Which I think ties into one of the other subtle core themes I see - honesty and the importance of listening. That a friendship is at its deepest and strongest when two people can be honest and vulnerable, share their feelings and come to a true understanding. The way Butterfree and MC did, and the way even Charizard was able to seemingly open up there at the end.
c o m m u n i c a t i o n 👌

At times during the middle of the recap of the narrator's journey things did feel a little draggy to me, though. I think it's because this section is largely summary, "I went here, I trained with you, it was good/bad, I felt some kind of way about it, I put you back in the box," etc. The best parts imo are ones where you reference some specific event and how it made the narrator feel, e.g. Butterfree's behavior after being let out in Fuchsia, rather than power through a series of things happening in general terms.
One of the pieces of feedback in the previous thread that stuck with me was that the memory portion was dull compared to the release scene, and although it wasn't exactly a recurring complaint it was one of the first things I wanted to rectify, by adding more specifics as you talk about; the Seafoam bit was one of the first things I added, and the other bits of specific events were also added significantly for the same reason. I did worry the significantly added length as a result might make it drag again; there is a lot of stuff that we can't really get into specifics of meaningfully but still needs to be there, though. I'm slightly unsure about your specific examples; it's hard to convey the Route 15 paragraph in a short snippet of an actual scene, I think, and with the Victory Road bit in particular I definitely don't want to skip over the bit where Victory Road is hard and they arrive kind of late and just sign up with their other Pokémon and the whole thing about maybe training up Butterfree just gets left by the wayside, not because they make any conscious final decision on the matter of whether to actually try to go for it with Butterfree, but because they're just exhausted and in a hurry and not thinking about that at all and just do the thing they'd originally planned. I think that's a pretty important moment, and that as a reader I'd be pretty unsatisfied if it was skipped. (Maybe it'd be worth expanding that arrival with more specifics instead...)

This was interesting to me, though. I hadn't really gotten this sense of self-loathing from the narrator previously--they were very avoidant and anxious about sending Butterfree out again, but I didn't get the vibe that they were avoiding that reunion out of a feeling that they'd hurt Butterfree by having it.
This bit was calling back to their very similar thought process on the ferry to Sevii towards the end of the memory portion, where they kind of try to think of how they could make it up to Butterfree and fix things but the things they can think of are all bad.

This is a nice sentiment, but I'm REALLY impressed that the narrator can recognize this particular tree after >6 years, heh. Perhaps mention some distinctive feature that lets them know this is the one?
There was a specific mention that they remember Caterpie crawling out from behind this tree near the very beginning of the release scene! They're not in the forest, note; I'm picturing a single free-standing tree here, a bit apart. The tree itself isn't super distinct, just its location. Probably worth clarifying.

I can't help but wonder whether it's really likely that no one would notice that a pokémon's been boxed for six years, but I suppose proving that it wasn't just a release would require that the people doing the checking be able to see into a trainer's storage account, rather than just happening to realize "hey, we haven't seen Butterfree with you in a while..."? And maybe that is or isn't a whole other privacy can of worms. Either way, it is definitely a welcome step forward in keeping the focus on storage as something that's unsettling about the trainer's treatment of Butterfree specifically, rather than being an unsettling facet of the system as a whole. Mistakes and oversights do happen, after all!
Not 100% sure about this bit. Feels like a piece of biting irony/self-deprecation that doesn't quite land.
Mmm, not sure that I like this addition. I totally know why it's in here--there are obviously horrifying implications if a pokémon can disappear into the storage system for six years and no one does anything about it--but "there are systems in place to deal with this, but nobody bothered me because I'm the champion" is still really yikes! To me it seems like hanging a lampshade on the issue here is only going to make people who otherwise might not have noticed anything amiss go, "Oh. Huh." and think about it. Really tought position here, and yeah, I don't really see a way out without compromising on something that's important to you: making the time period a lot less than six years, have the trainer need to dodge increasingly-pointed questions from Center staff etc., them having to actively do something like withdraw Butterfree's ball every month or whatever to avoid tripping an alert, and so on. To me, personally, this is more a story about the relationship between two people than the world they live in, so my personal approach would be to not address it and let people consider the world fucked up if they wanted. But I know you don't want that implication at all! I am not sure this approach really dodges it, though.
So, the story behind this paragraph is that in the previous version, several readers were in fact majorly distracted by the idea that trainers could just leave Pokémon in a box for years at their own discretion. And readers disagreeing about how they perceive the world portrayed in a story is generally fine, but if you experience the main problem in this story as being "this world in general just sucks for all Pokémon", then the story being fixated on this one trainer's relationship with their Butterfree just becomes super unsatisfying and doesn't address the problem at all. This is not and is never going to be a very good story about a world that sucks for all Pokémon, on a purely practical basis. So given that was what people were taking away from it, not one person but many, I did think it was necessary to address one way or another within the story.

The systems failing to catch the champion boxing a Pokémon for six years is obviously a yike in terms of how well the systems work in this world. But I did think it did the job in terms of making it pretty clear that what happened to Butterfree is something wildly unusual, and thus the scope of the problem here is realistically limited to them and their trainer. I didn't want to spend too much time expositing about exactly how the safeguards work (the League can't centrally track what Pokémon are in everyone's box and how long they've been there for privacy reasons, but boxes that haven't been accessed at all in a while are flagged and opened, and human inspectors are meant to ask to see your box regularly but haven't been bothering when it comes to this very wholesome champion who's obviously best buds with their Pokémon and catches and releases team members on the regular), and even just this short paragraph still feels awkward to me, buuut anything to have people not figure this is just a thing that can happen to any Pokémon at any time if their trainer is vaguely careless.

I'm open to thoughts on improving it. Mayyyybe I can include an actual box inspection somewhere during the memories? Or just the trainer worrying about it at some stage? Mmmh.

I think there are a lot of different potential takes on this part of the story, which I think may be frustrating to the extent that you have a point you're making and some people may read something totally different into it, but to me it's usually much more interesting to have something that's open to interpretation rather than locked into the author's particular argument.
Oh yeah, it's entirely fair for people to have different takes on whether the trainer deserved forgiveness, to what extent Butterfree's toxic selflessness is still influencing their decisionmaking, etc. (I may have a moral disagreement, but that's not really about the story by that point.) My main concern when it comes to "is it getting across the way I intended" is that I'm not communicating something entirely different about what's going on than I was trying to! So far it definitely sounds like this revision helped with that.
 
Last edited:

Negrek

No Gravity
Staff
I'm slightly unsure about your specific examples; it's hard to convey the Route 15 paragraph in a short snippet of an actual scene, I think, and with the Victory Road bit in particular I definitely don't want to skip over the bit where Victory Road is hard and they arrive kind of late and just sign up with their other Pokémon and the whole thing about maybe training up Butterfree just gets left by the wayside, not because they make any conscious final decision on the matter of whether to actually try to go for it with Butterfree, but because they're just exhausted and in a hurry and not thinking about that at all and just do the thing they'd originally planned.
Ah, sorry, I should have been more clear. wrt Victory Road, I wasn't talking about the part where the trainer ultimately decides to leave Butterfree behind--I agree with you that that's important and should be included. Rather, these were the specific paragraphs I thought might be cuttable:

The journey through Victory Road was long and grueling, our greatest challenge yet. By the time we made it through we were already late, exhausted, stressed, but I managed to register to fight the Elite Four.

At that point I didn’t even think at all; I just signed up with the team I’d picked out, the ones I’d been through the cave with. The ones I’d always meant to use.

Edit: Oh, that was the part you were talking about, wasn't it? I missed the part where the trainer decided to reevaluate after Victory Road. That's fair, I suppose; I do wonder if there's a way to spice up the narration a bit here... I do think you may have flipped to going into a little too much detail about the trainer's thought progression over time.

As far as Route 15 goes, I guess I was thinking of something along these lines?

By the time I headed out on Route 15, hoping to backtrack to Lavender and through Rock Tunnel to check out that abandoned power plant I’d heard whispers of, I’d managed to brush off almost all the anxiety that had been gnawing at me since I first realized you were falling behind. You'd be able to catch up easily here--and you did, your confusions tossing Oddish left and right, your chirps full of a delight I hadn't heard in a long time. By the time we got to the power plant, you were fully caught up with everyone, and for the first time in a long time, when I deposited you back on the PC – I wasn’t about to bring you to a place full of powerful Electric-types, and I had other Pokémon who needed training too, after all – I didn’t feel bad about it.

Not even necessarily writing little scenes as such, but more looking for places to add some concrete details/events rather than "we went here and trained, and you felt good/bad about it" sort of summary.

This bit was calling back to their very similar thought process on the ferry to Sevii towards the end of the memory portion, where they kind of try to think of how they could make it up to Butterfree and fix things but the things they can think of are all bad.
Ah, gotcha. I think I was responding to that specific "I'd hurt you" phrasing often being linked to a particular sort of self-hatred, the irrational "I injure everyone I touch" kind of thing, rather than what the narrator was thinking on Sevii, about how basically all the options they had for letting Butterfree out at that point were bad. That one is probably on me!
 
Last edited:

unrepentantAuthor

A cat that writes stories.
Location
UK
Pronouns
they/she
Partners
  1. custom/purrloin-salem
  2. custom/sneasel-dusk
  3. custom/luz-companion
  4. custom/brisa-companion
  5. custom/meowth-laura
  6. custom/delphox-jesse
Hey, Free! I had a great time beta-reading this a second time, and it's clearly a stronger piece for the further revision. I've told you before that this piece hits a lot of my buttons, what with communication between humans and non-human partners, ethics in pokémon training, and hard reflection over personal failings all being central to the story. I forget what's old and what's new, but the current version flows smoothly from start to finish, is compelling and charming, and really hits home for me at least with plausibility. It rings true that these characters would have their relationship play out like this, and I can absolutely get behind the second chance Butterfree gives Trainer at the end. I believe that was already the case before, but it's really solid in this version, particularly with all the further additions like the little detail about Nidoking. That particular moment delights me as the specific implementation exists because of a beta suggestion I made! I think it's one of my favourite modifications from previous versions, because it indicates that there exists the space for contention over Trainer's actions, but that multi-party communication can bring things around, and it really cements Butterfree's noncombat value as a team mediator and morale captain. I also particularly commend the focus in the tail-end of the story on how the new approach to communication from Trainer affects not only Butterfree, but the other team members, and also Trainer themself. Ending with headbonking being a tool for correction and reassurance both is so sweet. Bless that bug, and bless you for this lovely story.
 

Dragonfree

Moderator
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partners
  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
Many thanks for the feedback <3

I've just edited the OP here with some further minor revisions, addressing various things brought up here as well as just making a number of tweaks that I wanted to make after rereading with more distance. The biggest edits are in the middle-ish bit of the memory portion, streamlining a bit and adding a little to Route 15, but I also rewrote the paragraph about how the trainer got away with it.
 
Last edited:

NebulaDreams

Ace Trainer
Partners
  1. luxray
  2. hypno
Hello again! I checked out the previous version of Butterfree a while ago and while I liked it overall, I remember feeling a bit put off by the implications at the back of the story, particularly in regards to how little consequences the protagonist seems to face over neglecting his Pokemon. But I was curious to check this revised version out, plus it's been a while since I read the previous draft, so it's like reading this story for the first time again.

I might end up making some of the same points I made in the last review (I didn't reread my original review since I didn't want that to influence my thoughts here), but I do have different thoughts on this version because I think this is a huge improvement. I feel like it stays true to the story's message and is authentic to the Pokemon world while tying up some of the loose ends that made the last version feel uncomfortable. Not all of them (the casual neglect aspect is still an elephant in the room), but enough of them that they don't get in the way of the story you're trying to tell.

I don't know if I said this in the previous review but I really enjoyed the prose here. Aside from flowing well, it fit in perfectly with the themes of the story and felt like a direct conversation with the protagonist's Butterfree. I don't have specific examples to pinpoint since all of it worked for me, so I'll just get straight into the meat of the story.

I might have said this the last time as well, but I like how gradual the protag's process is to leave Butterfree in the PC for 6 years. The protag is definitely in the wrong, but his actions are understandable considering his age and the amount of responsibility over a Pokemon's life that he wouldn't have been able to account for. And I like all the subtle character building from the rest of his Pokemon team and how they react to Butterfree's absence. And of course, the scene where he finally talks to Butterfree after so long felt raw and emotional, while taking the time to explore the thought processes of both characters, so it doesn't fall into explosive melodrama. The line where the protag is asking why Butterfree is being so nice to him after all this time was gutwrenching in particular.

Another thing I appreciate about the story is how the Pokemon elements can be applied to the complexities of maintaining friendships in real life. Of course, losing touch with a close friend isn't the same thing as leaving your friend/pet in a pocket dimension while everyone around them grows old, but I see the 6 year time gap from childhood to adolescence as that awkward phase where two childhood friends meet up again after drifting apart from one another for so long, and all the awkwardness that comes with that. I'm going to sound really mushy here, but it was especially touching that the Butterfree forgave the trainer because it shows that friendship is unconditional, and I just thought that was a beautiful sentiment. All of this adds another layer of depth that makes this one shot shine outside the boundaries of being a Pokemon fic.

My main complaint with the protagonist's actions not being fully addressed was, well, addressed quite well here. The scene before that was the emotional highlight of the story, sure, but I felt like the reactions of the protag's Nidoking and Charizard hit the hardest here, and really cements what impact the protag's decisions (or lack of decision) has on those around him. Particularly because it shows that the Pokemon aren't all in unconditional agreement with their trainers and aren't just faceless battle machines with no opinions of their own. You also do this without warping the worldbuilding of the games/anime where Pokemon are intelligent and have agency, but not on a human level, while also not brushing their concerns to the side.

While this is nitpicking at this point, I still wonder about the status of Pokemon at large if they're shown to be intelligent and capable of non-verbal communication but still just used for battles, though that can be handwaved since this takes a lot of inspiration from the game's worldbuilding where they're said to live for battling. When a Pokemon fic tries to cover the moral implications of a world the game leaves vague, there are always going to be loose ends. Anyway, I really enjoyed reading this story again, good work.
 

UnderSeaWings

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
He / Him
Howdy there Dragonfree, I'm here to review for my part in the Catnip.

Just finished reading through it. I really like all the emotions that you put in there, and how you contrasted the emotional highs with the emotional low point. You are an amazing writer, you know how to really sucker punch someone with your words. The way that you managed the one sided conversation with Butterfree while still conveying how they were feeling was really good too. Honestly enjoyed the addition of the POV character's team's reaction to the whole situation as well, because I feel like some people just wouldn't have thought to add in their thoughts on the whole situation and how they'd all react/grow from it.
I'll be honest and say I am one of those that hasn't read this one shot before, so I'm coming in blind.
It feels like yesterday.

It also feels like a lifetime ago.
Okay, that hits hard on initial reading.
EDIT: Hits double hard on re-reading.
You had a knack for figuring out everyone’s soft spots: that Charmander liked snuggling, that Pidgey always felt better after an aerial chase, that Nidoran just needed space and someone to listen to him vent (or, at least, that’s what I assume he was mumbling at you when you’d go tilt your head and titter at him after a particularly bad loss). That all I needed when I was having a tough time was reassurance that you guys still loved me, and when you plomped down on my head with an affectionate little chitter, everything seemed okay again.
Man, you nailed characterizing pretty well here. You can really see that Butterfree is the heart of the team in this early portion of the story. Someone that everyone comes to and appreciates in some way or form. The fact that you continue on and describe how useful they have been in battles that early on too, helps as well. :)
(I never told you that I could tell. I never told you that I could feel the increasing desperation in your victory snuggle. I never told you how I felt, or that I knew how you felt. I should have, but I didn’t. I don’t think I could quite admit it to myself at that point.)
Nice emotional sucker punch there. I am feeling that emotional turnaround from the celebrations and the highs before becoming a nice contrast to the lows here.
We had a nice day of training; you battled with what felt like more enthusiasm than usual, if anything, and I was so relieved that everything was okay, that nothing had happened. That, apparently, you still loved me just as much, still wanted to be on the team, didn’t really mind how long it had been.

And I left it at that. I didn’t actually try to ask you about it. After all that mounting dread, it was so nice, so comforting, to just believe that everything was fine after all, that I never had any reason to worry in the first place.
I'll be honest, really like this bit. Shows a nice emotional what-if moment that the POV character has dwelled on for a long time. What if we talked then, what if. That sort of thing really helps nail the emotions that you are exploring at this point in the story.
And after all the times I’d used to imagine entering the Hall of Fame with you on my head, so vivid in my mind – it felt like a childish fairy-tale fantasy now, and that realization burned.
Man, this moment really contrasts with the earlier optimism that you conveyed really well earlier with the POV character imagining Butterfree Sleep Powdering the Dragonites. Well done sad feels :)
I told myself I’d do it later.

I kept telling myself that and brushing it off, until I stopped thinking of it at all.

It’s been six years.
OOF, you hit really well with these sucker punches. I'm sure you have been told that a multitude of times, but these lines hit really well.
You hover there silently for a second, just staring at me with those unblinking red compound eyes; I feel as if I see accusation in them anyway. I try to imagine what must be going through your mind, what it might feel like to realize you’ve been in stasis for years, that everyone you knew has just moved on without you – but I can’t even begin to comprehend it.
It’s not the lazy sort of playful flutter I remember; you’re agitated, flying in quick, tense swoops.
I really like that you managed to convey the emotions that Butterfree is feeling here with just motions and nuance. I think this is something that quite a few people struggle with, myself among them, and you have down pat here.
You don’t. You stay, nibbling lightly at me, a comforting weight to remind me you’re still there, while I cry and cry and can’t stop. You stay as I run out of tears and just stand there shaking. You stay while I finally collect myself, wipe my face and take a few deep breaths. I don’t deserve your forgiveness but you stay anyway, and a part of me hates that, wishes you’d just hate me as much as I do so I can stop feeling so undeserving.

“I’m sorry,” I say when I regain the ability to talk, staring unseeingly at the pink-tinged clouds in the distance. “That was… I shouldn’t have said that. It’s your life. I’ve taken enough of it away from you already. I have no right to want anything from you. And I don’t. I just want you to be happy.”
You really hit the emotional nuance here really well. The conflict of emotions in the POV character and Butterfree. You have honestly done an amazing job with this piece, and I can see why multiple people are recommending it and saying it is one of their favourites. You have probably heard all this before, but you are amazing. :)
“But – Butterfree, if you’d rather go, just go. Don’t stay with me just to be nice. I don’t – I don’t get it. Why are you still being nice to me, after what I did? You shouldn’t be nice to me when I–”

There are tears running down my cheeks by now and I don’t even care. You dive down at me again, and I actually flinch away, expecting another round of undeserved comfort.

Instead, you give me a little bonk on the forehead. I blink stupidly, and you give me another. I stare at you for a second, numb. And then I realize. It’s you, telling me I’m being an idiot.
Again, just love the sense of connection that the two have with one another. Even after being apart for so long (at least on one half's side) they still can read the other pretty well. They still care. Good feels to contrast the downer from before.
Some of the others like to watch sometimes, too – not that I hadn’t let them before if they wanted to, but I get the sense you broke the ice a little, made it easier for them to decide to sit one out. Charizard snorted when I asked, fighter that he is – but I finally convinced him he doesn’t have to fight those Water-type trainers that make him nervous, either.

Trainers aren’t supposed to have favorites. And that’s fair. Having a favorite is something you do as a kid, before you really get to know your Pokémon. But you’re incredibly important to me, and I’ll never forget that again. Every day I strive to deserve the confidence you decided to place in me for this second chance.
Really like how you use the story to advance the POV's relationship with their team. To show that through this incident, everyone grew and learned. Makes it feel more real, in a sense. The second paragraph really contrasts well with one of the starting paragraphs as well, the one about Butterfree being the favourite. I feel like it shows that the POV has truly grown, both over time and from the incident.
And every time you disagree with my plans, or call me on my nonsense with a playful bonk on the head, I feel a little better.
A nice little flourish to end the story off, showing the growth over both of the primary characters. :)
 
Top Bottom