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Pokémon Stained Paws

windskull

Bidoof Fan
Partner
sneasel-nip
When a storm catches a litten and his zigzagoon partner out in the wilderness during a rescue mission, they're forced to make camp and wait it out. There, they have a little discussion about the litten's past.

***​

So, this was a writing prompt response I did for a discord I'm in and was meant to be treated like a writing exercise. The prompt being that the hero and partner are forced to camp out when a mission keeps them out later than expected. As a result of being an exercise, it might be a little less polished than I'd like.

I'll also mention this was sort of a trial run for a fic Idea I have bouncing in my head, so depending on reception, you might see these two again at some point in the future.

With that out of the way, I present to you...

***
Stained Paws


Thunder rolled overhead, a deafening crash that accompanied flashes of lightning. Rain poured down in droves. Gusts of wind buffeted the open fields, whipping blades of grass this way and that. Somewhere in the distance, a feral luxray cried out, invigorated by the power of the storm.

On a dirt – now mud – path running through the fields trudged a litten. He leaned forward slightly as he fought against the wind, ignoring the sting of the pelting rain. His bag, a small, yet sturdy pouch around his neck, nearly dragged in the dirt with his head drooped so low. This was supposed to be an easy mission; they should have been able to get there and back before the storm, by his calculations. And yet, here he was, stubbornly fighting nature in his attempts at playing hero.

His inner monologue was interrupted by a small voice behind him, their words nearly drowned out by the sound of the rain alone. “Kyros! Wait up!”

Kyros paused for just a moment, his tail lashing and flinging a bit of mud as he turned his head. Zigging back and forth behind him, hopping carefully from spot to spot in hopes of avoiding the mud, bracing against the wind every few hops, was a zigzagoon. His thick coat was absolutely soaked, normally spiky fur dripping and sticking to his back.

He came to a stop just beside Kyros, panting heavily for a moment. Then he pressed up against Kyros, a gesture that the litten couldn’t tell the meaning of. Either he was nervous, or he was trying to comfort Kyros. Regardless of what it was meant to be, Kyros recoiled from the touch, a low rumble in his throat. For just a second, he unsheathed his claws, before reminding himself that the gesture only had good intentions. As much as he hated the rain, he was thankful that it managed to keep his fur lying flat.

Taking a deep breath, he tried to play his response off nonchalantly. “What have I said about touching me, Stripes?”

Stripes twitched an ear, the only sign that he acknowledged Kyros’ words. Instead of an apology, he said “we gotta stop. This weather… it’s not natural. We should find shelter 'till it passes. Besides, we’re likely to accidentally stumble into a dungeon in this weather. The last thing we need is to get lost in one of those.”

Kyros’ expression shifted into a scowl, and he turned. “Our client is out there in this weather, too. We need to find them. Besides, I’m not letting a little storm get in the way of our perfect rescue record. We keep moving.”

Satisfied with his response he took another step forward, only to stumble as the wind changed direction. Face first, he fell in the mud. And stayed like that for just a moment. Okay, maybe he was wrong. Maybe they had to stop.

Something nudged his side, forcing him to quit wallowing in his misery. Stripes had already forgotten his demand to not be touched, as usual. As he pushed himself back into a sitting position he realized for the first time just how dark it was. It must have been later than he realized; daylight was fading quick. Oh, how he wished he had a clock. Another one of those little luxuries you don’t miss until it’s gone.

“Um, Ky?” Stripes nudged him again, harder this time. “Are you alright? Look, there’s some boulders over there. The way they’re set up, we should be able to find some dry ground. But we gotta take shelter before some water or electric type takes advantage of this storm and snaps us up like a snack!”

Kyros followed the zigzagoon’s gaze, squinting in hopes of seeing through the rain better. “Fine,” he grunted, flicking his tail. Insistent on getting in the last word, though, he added, “but don’t blame me if something happens to our client.”

Carefully, he pulled himself the rest of the way out of the mud and began to push through the grass on one side of the path, the blades reaching up to his belly as the bowed to the wind.

***​

The boulders did indeed provide some level of shelter; two of the rocks leaned against each other, creating a small gap that the two could shelter under. It wasn’t perfectly dry. Water dripped through the cracks, creating small puddles that the two did their best to avoid.

Stripes dashed to the back end of the shelter, pausing inside to shake as much of the excess water off as he could. Kyros did similar before slinking further inwards, collapsing onto his haunches once he found a suitably dry spot. God, he hadn’t realized how cold and tired he was until he was off his feet. Drowsy as he was, though, he took a moment to check himself, notating the mud that still clung to his paws and chest, and even his face.

Like clocks, running water was another luxury he missed. And having hands. He still wasn’t used to the idea of grooming himself like some animal, and he refused to clean off all that nasty mud. He missed being almost human.

Resigned to his fate of being wet and muddy, he let out a sigh and rested his chin on his paws. “Since we stopped anyways, we might as well take advantage of this break. Get some rest, Stripes.”

The zigzagoon, who was much less reserved about cleaning himself and was busy trying to groom away the mud, glanced up and tilted his head, blinking. “Shouldn’t one of us keep watch for trouble?”

Kyros opened his mouth to say something snarky but decided better of it. “Guess you have a point. Are you going to take first watch?”

“Of course! You look so tired, anyways.”

Again, he had a point. “Fine. Wake me when it’s my turn.”

For a few moments, the two fell silent, Kyros closing his eyes as he listed to the sound of the wind and the rain and the thunder. And his teammate chewing his own mud away. Involuntarily, he shivered in the chill as a gust of wind blew through their shelter.

But soon, the sound of grooming was replaced by the sound of soft footsteps. He felt something press against his side. Lifting his head, he saw that Stripes had come over to lay down beside him.

“What are you doing?” he asked bluntly.

“You’re a fire type,” Stripes said in a matter-of-fact tone. “Getting soaked and cold like this is bad enough for most pokemon, but it’s worse for you. So I’m going to keep you warm!”

Kyros opened and closed his mouth, uncertain of how to react. Before he could say anything though Stripes continued to talk, changing the subject.

“You know… I’ve always kind of wondered why you wanted to establish a dungeoneering team. You’re always so grumpy, you never struck me as the team leader type.

Not the team leader type? Kyros tensed up, sheathing and unsheathing his claws. “For your information,” he spat, “I’ll have you know I was a renowned hero and team leader in my world. Why wouldn’t I throw myself into the same thing here?”

The zigzagoon tensed beside him, flinching at his tone. He lowered his head and looked away, and a guilty pit formed in his stomach. Kyros’ tail lashed as he forced himself to calm down.

“Sorry,” he finally said through grit teeth. “I don’t mean to be rude. I just… I miss it sometimes. The work here is so thankless and exhausting. Day in and day out we go into the dungeons, risking our lives to harvest resources and rescue lost pokemon. Pokemon that often shouldn’t even be there. And all for what, a few coins and a thank-you tossed our way. There’s no respect, no matter how hard we work!”

To that, Stripes was silent for a moment. Kyros laid his head back down, trying to relax. “It is kind of rough,” the zigzagoon finally admitted. “But… in the end, we know we’re doing a good job, and that should be all that matters, right?”

Kyros didn’t respond. Stripes shifted uncomfortably, thrown off by the long silence. “So… you said you were a hero before you came here? That’s really neat. No wonder you were so adamant about taking rescue jobs. What was it like, being a hero in your world?”

“Well, for one thing, I got the respect I deserved. Everyone looked up to me, and they were always thanking me for a job well done. Most of the time, we were fighting bad guys that dared to hurt innocent civilians. But sometimes we did rescue work, too.”

Stripes’ eyes seemed to shine in the fading light. “That’s so neat. Do you think you’ll return to it, if you ever go back to your world?”

If. There was no guarantee he’d get to go back. There was no guarantee he’d be welcomed back. “I’d rather not think about the ifs,” he said. There’s no use thinking about things that might never happen. Let me just focus on this world right now.”

“Hm… that’s fair.”

Silence fell over the two again. Just as Kyros started to drift off, though, he felt something rasp against his paw. Peeking one eye open, he saw stripes run his tongue over the mud in an attempt to clean it off for him.

It was kind of funny, how starstruck Stripes was. He was so enamored by the litten, that he couldn’t see the blood on his hands. Or paws, as they now were. And Kyros wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep it that way.

“…Please stop that,” Kyros mumbled, nosing the zigzagoon away from his feet. “I’ll take care of it in the morning. It’s weird when you do that.”

“It’s perfectly normal,” Stripes insisted. “Besides, you don’t groom yourself enough. I’m just trying to help.”

“It’s weird for humans.”

“But… you’re not human anymore, right? You have to take care of yourself the way you are now.”

Stripes had a point. But it wasn’t something Kyros wanted to acknowledge. He didn’t want to think about all the uncertainties in his insignificant life. “Just let me sleep. Please.”

And with that, he ended the conversation by closing his eyes. The zigzagoon was still for a while, but when he thought Kyros had fallen asleep, he went right back to grooming him. This time, Kyros didn’t protest. He appreciated the gesture, after all. It just felt… weird. He just didn’t want to be treated like an animal. He didn’t want to act like one, either. He didn’t want to let go of his last shreds of humanity.

And yet, he found himself drifting off, lulled into sleepiness by the rhythmic rasp of Stripes’ tongue as he tried to wash away the filth. But he could only do so much; he could only fix the surface grime. He couldn’t fix the black stains on his soul. He couldn’t erase the terrified screams that echoed in Kyros’ head, or the visions of civilians lying dead in the streets, slain by his own creations.

Maybe it would have been easier to take the role of an animal, to forget his past, but Kyros wouldn’t let himself do that. He would be a hero this time. No matter the cost.
 

canisaries

everyday is halloween
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
Hi! Here from the Catnip Circle.

First some quote comments:

Instead of an apology, he said “we gotta stop. This weather… it’s not natural.
Punctuation is a bit off, I believe this is how punctuation rules go for situations like these:

Instead of an apology, he said, “We gotta stop. This weather… it’s not natural.

notating the mud that still clung to his paws and chest
You'll want "noting", as "notating" specifically refers to writing something in notation, such as music.

He missed being almost human.
After reaching the end, this is an intriguing line - it seems to refer to how Kyros sees his past sins as disqualifying him from humanity. Initially, though, I assumed this meant he used to be an Incineroar (humanoid feline -> almost human) that had somehow devolved, and I don't know if that's something you want to be invoked. In case it's not, changing this to "He missed being human. Almost human." would eliminate that erroneous interpretation.

Before he could say anything though Stripes continued to talk, changing the subject.
It may be better to separate "though" from the rest with commas to avoid it being confused with "even though".

Why wouldn’t I throw myself into the same thing here?
"Throw himself" is an interesting choice of phrase, as it sounds like he didn't really consider it a good thing but more something to subject himself to.

He was so enamored by the litten, that he couldn’t see the blood on his hands.
I'm not 100% sure about this as I couldn't find examples online, but I remember being taught in English class not to have commas before "that" so this seems off to me.

General comments:

This was a rather atmospheric snippet. The description of the scenery and its effects on the characters is vivid. The two characters come off as distinct even in this short time, enforced by their personalities and habits clashing. Stripes voluntarily grooming Kyros despite his protests is very telling of his character, although I must point out that it felt like Stripes overstepping Kyros' boundaries and him not liking it happened enough times to make it seem a little repetitive.

Anyway, that's all I have. If you do decide to expand this into a larger project, I wish you luck with that.
 

Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
I still need to catch up on your main fic, but a bite-sized story like this was too nice to pass up! Some small nitpicks first, big thoughts at the end.

Rain poured down in droves.
Sounds off to me; normally you use "droves" for countable nouns, so you could say "raindrops" poured down in droves if you liked.

His inner monologue was interrupted by a small voice behind him, their words nearly drowned out by the sound of the rain alone.
*the words

Instead of an apology, he said “we gotta stop. This weather… it’s not natural.
Should be a comma after "said" and a caps on "We."

Oh, how he wished he had a clock. Another one of those little luxuries you don’t miss until it’s gone.
Love this little detail. Nice way of getting across that Kyros is a former human while also adding a touch of worldbuilding.

Drowsy as he was, though, he took a moment to check himself, notating the mud that still clung to his paws and chest, and even his face.
Should be "noting," not "notating."

He missed being almost human.
"Almost" human? Oh, very interesting!

He lowered his head and looked away, and a guilty pit formed in his stomach.
The pronouns confused me here; I assume Stripes is the one looking away, in which case I think it would be clearer to replace "hist stomach" with "Kyros' stomach."

“Sorry,” he finally said through grit teeth.
It's a little curious to me that Kyros complains about rescue teams not getting any respect. Makes me wonder whether things work a little differently in this PMD-verse than they do in the games, since I think in canon rescue teams seem highly valued, with some of the more skilled teams rising to the level of folk heroes. Alternatively, perhaps Kyros is a little overly-obsessed with "respect" or thinks that people should be giving him way more deference than he's really earned, which would make sense for a villainous personality. I like that here it's ambiguous whether Kyros was actually a "bad guy" as such who's come to realize the error of his ways, or someone who just made a catastrophic mistake and is now beating himself up over it.

I'm also really curious whether his "almost human" line is indicating that he's perhaps some kind of hybrid, or someone with a weird power or something that doesn't usually show up in humans and so might be considered "not quite human." Or, like canisaries speculated, is he simply thinking that way because he's so terrible he doesn't ~deserve to be called human? The latter option sounds a bit melodramatic, like, I think even people who are really down on themselves generally still consider themselves to be human, albeit maybe a worthless or substandard one. But one way or another, that was an intriguing line to throw out.

I think there are several places here where you do a nice job of including a line or detail with big implications, where you can indicate things to the reader without baldly stating them. I think this is (often) a more interesting way to do things than simply stating something like, "I used to be a human," or, "Actually, I was totally lying about being a hero." I also like the discomfort Kyros has with his human form; in a lot of fics it seems like humans naturally take to the transition and don't have any issues with behavioral changes/needing to do things like lick yourself clean, so it's cool to see you giving Kyros a somewhat more difficult time with that.

I will say, though, that this doesn't feel super like a standalone piece to me. It is its own self-contained scene, but while you introduce a lot of conflict and mysteries, nothing is really resolved by the end. As a teaser for a larger story, I think it works great, and it would make a solid introductory chapter, too. As its own thing, I think I'd find it kind of empty/confusing, like, okay, but what was the point?

I do like the setup here, though; a human-turned pokémon without amnesia and who's seeking an opportunity to atone for some horrible thing in his past could make for a really fun protagonist for a longer story. Or even just an expanded one-shot, if you like! Color me intrigued, for sure.
 
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