OH WOW A LOG WITHOUT DUNCAN IN IT :O=-<
Baxter runs into Shorty and they decide to chill for some pizza and wow Baxter actually gets kind of mad about something it's pretty whack yo. In the end though a friendship has progressed!
It was mid-day. Shorty had spent the morning walking around, checking out Saffron. He was sure he wouldn't be lost this time because he brought a map! But the map was kind of simplistic so he was struggling to tell which street he was on. They needed to stop making town maps that covered the entire Kanto area!
If the ice cream shop was there, and the Pokecenter was there... Yep, Shorty was officially covered. It was about time to start finding his way back home. He decided he'd bring out the map if home didn't end up being at the end of the sidewalk he was currently walking on.
Baxter wasn't sure whether to be glad or not. On the one hand, he didn't need to keep the peace at the protests today. On the other hand, the only reason he was getting off so early was that he'd worked one of the crazy insomniac shifts handling detention paperwork at the precinct instead. So, it was noon and he'd already worked a full shift.
He was in process of walking home now, fully intent on collapsing as soon as he made it to his bed. He'd changed out of his uniform before leaving the station (customary) and so he was dressed in some fairly nondescript street clothes plus an amazingly comfortable coat. He might have been exhausted, but at least he was warm!
Anyway, walking with his hands in his pockets and his head down (as he tended to while not on duty (and sometimes while, there was a reason Baxter was never given very important jobs)), he nearly bumped into Shorty at the street corner. His mumbled apology was cut off as he realized who he'd nearly walked into. "Oh! Shorty?" What a strange coincidence!
...And some soap so Tilly, Gliggy, and Retter can have a nice bubble ba-- hey! "Whoa!" Huh? Mister Baxter? "Hi mister Baxter! Fancy meeting you here!" He wasn't in uniform, so he either wasn't on duty, or was UNDERCOVER? Gosh, he's amazingly sly! Or maybe he's just...
"Are you heading home? I was just out exploring!"
"Yeah, I just got off duty," he said, giving Shorty a smile. It was sort of forced, but Baxter always looked kind of nervous anyway so it probably was impossible to tell. "Where were you going? To explore, I mean. Or...um..." Yeah he'd ruined that question already, just end it there, Baxter. He sort of trailed off, smile fading, and glanced aside while scratching the back of his head. Baxter: perpetually nervous looking.
This guy's nervousness was starting to make Shorty feel nervous. He was sure that Mister Baxter had some kind of "Be really intimidating" button he presses when chasing down criminals! "I was exploring Saffron, looking for all the shops and food places and pokecenters, because I moved here not long ago from Johto..." So nervous... "Um, I-I think that's why."
"Saffron's pretty big... I've been here a few months already and I still don't know it very well at all." Pause. His hand fell back to his pocket and he hunched his shoulders, sort of huddling under his coat. "Did you, um, find anything interesting yet?" Eye contact? What's that? Oh right that thing Baxter never does.
Gosh, was he really a police officer? No! Shorty had almost been tricked by his facade! "Well, I found an ice cream shop, and another place that has pizza! That's half my food groups right there!" Shorty wasn't even wearing his Rocket Uniform right now, so he was just an excited kid-- er, teenager. Sometimes it was hard to tell.
"Oh, was it the diner on Fifth?" He seemed to perk up, finally actually looking at Shorty's face instead of a few inches to the side. "They have really good pizza...!"
"They do? I haven't gotten to eat there yet. I was too busy exploring!" Hmm, Mister Baxter had blessed Shorty with ice cream before, and Shorty got paid not long ago...
"Oh! How about we go there together! I'll repay you for the ice cream the other day!" Shorty sure was impulsive, always making plans without actually planning them. But could he have accidentally had a good idea? Shorty had his usual smile on his face.
Aw man, but he was so worn out and he just wanted to go home and sleep for like 12 hours and...
But, he realized, if he went home it'd be to an empty apartment with nobody but Speedy for company (Tabby so did not count) and...he kind of didn't feel like being alone right now? Putting off sleep for an extra couple hours didn't seem like such a bad deal compared to hanging out with somebody who actually wanted to hang out with him.
So, he returned Shorty's typical smile with a typical Baxter smile and said, "That sounds nice! I know the way, over here." And so he led on toward Fifth Street, glancing back over his shoulder to make sure Shorty was following.
Shorty did! And then they went there!
After a bit, Shorty found a good place to sit and pointed towards it. "Oh, how about we sit there?" It was all clean and everything! Shorty began the walk towards it, assuming Mister Baxter had no objections.
"Sure!" He took a seat on the far side of the booth, folding his hands over the table and staring off through the window for a while. He lost himself in thought, and would probably stay there until something interrupted him.
Mister Baxter seemed like such a quiet guy. Shorty wondered if he would be better doing something that required less being mean to people (albeit bad people) than police work. Like being in Team Rocket! Then Mister Baxter could help the entire world!
But Mister Baxter was probably happy helping people as a police officer...
A waiter walked up to them and handed them menus. "Welcome to our resturaunt. Can I go ahead and get you some drinks while you decide on what you want?"
Shorty responded, "Sure! I'll have some juice!"
The waiter smiled politely down at Shorty. "Orange juice, or...?"
Meanwhile, Baxter snapped out of his daze and picked up the menu, glancing at it, and then toward the edge of the table where the waiter was standing (instead of up at the waiter himself). He waited for Shorty to clarify and then ordered a soda for himself. (He was a Sprite kinda guy, apparently.)
After this, the waiter left and Baxter returned to silently staring off into the distance (instead of, y'know, looking at the menu).
"Oh right I'm sorry. Yeah, orange juice please!" Shorty said what he should have said a moment ago.
Once the waiter left, Shorty looked at the menOH GOSH SO MANY CHOICES SHORTY WAS DOOMED WHAT WOULD HE GET HE DIDN'T KNOW OH MAN SHORTY JUST CALM DOWN!
"T-there's so many things here! Any of this look good to you, Mister Baxter?" Shorty asked, half hoping Mister Baxter would choose for him.
"Oh!" He blinked, snapped his gaze to Shorty. "Um, we were getting a pizza, I thought? What kind of pizza do you want...?" Pepperoni omg say pepperoni don't make this awkward or difficult please.
Foiled! Shorty had to make a choice. Wait, was Mister Baxter being nice and letting him choose? What... what would mister Baxter want? Why was all this pressure being placed on Shorty OH GOSH PANIC RED ALERT ALL HANDS ON DE--
Shorty relied on fate and closed his eyes, then he pointed at the menu.
He opened his eyes again and...
No, wait. Technically his finger was BELOW sausage. It was actually on...
"H-how about Pepperoni?"
"Yes!" Relief! Shorty got a smile for this. "Pepperoni is fine." WHEW CRISIS AVERTED BAXTER DIDN'T HAVE TO CONFRONT ANYBODY. Maybe he could get Shorty to order, too...!
He set his menu aside at the edge of the table so the waiter could pick it up when he came back. In doing this he was suddenly struck by a random thought, and he looked up at Shorty to ask, "Hey, um, you're from Johto, right? Are you going home for Christmas?"
Mister Baxter seemed happy at the choice. Hurray! Shorty wasn't looking forward to eating-- eugh-- sausage.
Home...? The question caught Shorty a bit off-guard.
"I can't-- I mean, not until I become a man. My father asked me to go out and become one, so I have to do so before I can go back." Christmas away from home... such a sad realization. "But... but I'll be spending it with Mister Duncan's family, so it won't be so bad!" Shorty couldn't recall if Mister Duncan actually agreed to this or not, but he was sure a few puppy-eyes and hugging Tilly sadly would ensure this would come to pass.
"How about you? Are you going to be with your family?"
"Oh, so will you still be out of town then? Or does his family live in Saffron too?" He was...not inclined to answer about his own family, so he just kind of...ignored the question. "Either way it's pretty cool that they're willing to let you come when you can't go home for it."
"Um, I think so," Shorty replied. "I'm not sure where his family's from exactly but I think they're not from saffron." Shorty was struggling to remember the posts in Dexnet he snooped out to gather this SECRET INFORMATION but he was sure there was one somewhere. Or maybe he was completely wrong. He hoped not, since he already said he'd be out of town just now and that'd be awkward if he wasn't.
"But yeah, it was really nice of them! His family is kind of ... odd, but they seem generally nice. Except one of them is a pokemon which is kind of weird." Shorty may have said too much.
Blink. "Um..." Did he just say...? "One of them is a Pokémon? Like, a pet?" Pets as part of the family was perfectly normal, nothing weird there...!
"Kind of! Except not so much and he actually talks. He's like the prince of moons or something! He's a Gardevoir, but Mister Duncan keeps saying that he's his long lost brother named Sean or something." Shorty felt he was remembering some details wrong...
"Oh..." That sounded, um, different. He glanced away. "Um, there's nobody like that in my family. I bet that's...interesting."
"Nobody like that in mine, either. In fact, I was pretty much an only child" Except... "Except for my old best friend. He became my rival, though, so now I have to become a man before he does!" Shorty sure was quick to point out his ultimate mission!
"Oh! You have a rival?" THIS SOUNDED INTERESTING. "What's that like? I was never a trainer so I never really did that whole thing..."
Shorty preferred not to think about THE RIVAL...
"Well, he was really cool. We hung out all the time! And then..." Oh gosh this was so UPSETTING. "Then he stole my girlfriend and talked about his sense of smell as if it was the best thing ever! He ran off to gather the badges, and I..." Sniff. "I tried to keep up but he was always one gym ahead of me. So... so I gave up my dream of being the best trainer, and now I'm here." RIVAL!! HOW COULD YOU!!
Shorty was trying to regain composure, but talking about his rival just made him so... argh!
...aaaa that was a bad subject apparently! Baxter quickly tried to smooth it over. "But, um! You're better off now than he is, right? So you sort of won, in a different way...!" Hopefully he wasn't just making a terrible assumption and Shorty was like HOMELESS AND STARVING wait he had money to treat for pizza okay good enough!
By golly, Mister Baxter had a point! He wasn't part of TEAM ROCKET and he didn't have Mister Duncan on his side! Shorty was winning by default! He cheered up from this realization.
"Gosh, thanks Mister Baxter. I never thought of it that way before!"
The waiter had returned to take their order and provide their drinks. Shorty gave his order with his usual perkiness. All better!
Yesss he'd gotten Shorty to order the pizza that was a win in his book. After the waiter walked off, he gave Shorty a cheerful smile. "See? So you might not be a champion trainer, but you're not the one sleeping outside in the middle of nowhere because you're off exploring."
"Golly, I guess you're right... Thanks Mister Baxter." Shorty gave a smile. This was somehow different from his usual cheerful smile. As if hearing those words comforted him in a way far deeper than-- "Oh our drinks are here!"
Very observant, Shorty. He took a sip.
"So um, I forgot if I asked earlier but are you gonna visit your family for Christmas?" Shorty almost added a "Can I come!?" but he remembered he was visiting Mister Duncan's family instead.
His smile took on a slightly nervous tinge and he hunched his shoulders, glancing down at the table. "Um, no, probably not. I might just volunteer to work on Christmas..." He didn't really feel like he had anybody worth spending it with! There was Ollie, maybe, but even that seemed like a stretch on her part.
"Y-you can't work on Christmas! It's... Christmas!" Shorty was shocked at such madness! It's not like the Police force makes people work on that day-- that'd just be cruel and unusual!
"Don't you wanna see your family? Or... or do you also have to become a man first? But you're a police officer so you're already a man! Stopping criminals all the time... that's the ultimate manliness!" Nevermind 99% of the force are women.
"Um..." Ha ha oh wow how did one even respond to that? MANLINESS was not something Baxter was good at and he totally knew it. "W-well... Somebody has to work on Christmas. If I'm not going home, I might as well work so somebody else can."
Such... such sacrifice! Shorty choked back a manly tear. "Wow... you're a real hero, giving up your holiday so somebody can take theirs! You're... so manly! I hope one day I can have the willpower to give up something for somebody else like that!"
Just then, the pizza arrives! Hurray!
Baxter laughed. It was a nervous, disbelieving laugh; the sort that just kind of escapes regardless of whether it was meant to or not. Thankfully the pizza got there and he had a legitimate reason to ignore Shorty while lifting a couple slices onto his plate. But, augh, it too hot to handle comfortably, much less eat. No long-standing excuse not to respond! He just kind of kept not responding and hoped Shorty wouldn't keep talking about how AWESOME AND MANLY he was.
Oh man, he was embarrassing the poor guy! Or maybe he was just being polite. Well, Shorty can be polite too! He changed the subject in true Shorty fashion.
"Oh! The riots! Were you okay? You don't seem too badly hurt... did-- did they throw paint on you?!" Shorty kind of... no. he fully and completely wished he could have been there. "I would have thrown paint back at them!"
"Um, fine, yeah!" Oh this was a much less mortifying topic and something he could actually respond to with some truth. He smiled up at Shorty, head cocked slightly to one side. "I don't really do much crowd control, to be honest. I'm the one who gets tasked to drive people back to the station when they're arrested. I do the paperwork for their arrests, too. But I'm not really out there putting the cuffs on anyone."
"Oh man so you had all those people in the back of your car? I'd be SO SCARED!" A pause. "Um, paperwork? I thought they just threw people in the SLAMMER for like 200 years!" Shorty grabbed some pizza and began munching on it. This was getting interesting!
"It's not that scary, they can't do anything! There's a screen in between the front and back seat, and anyway they're cuffed." He basically totally forgot about the pizza as he started talking about police procedure. When it was a subject Baxter actually knew, he could get pretty into it!
"You can't keep people in detention without charging them with something, and certain charges have different conditions. Most of these are cases of assault and destruction of private property, so we have to take them back to the station and formally charge them with the crime, and then there's the whole justice process after that. Being a police officer is really a lot more than just running out and taking down bad guys!"
"Oh wow I never knew that!" There's more to policing than shooting the bad guys and taking them into jail? Next they'll say there's more to TEAM ROCKET than saving the world!
"Being a police officer must be kind of hard! Not only do you have to catch bad guys, but you have to write stuff about them? I hate writing cause it's always so hard to remember the proper punctuation and spelling!" Not that he ever missed important things like commas.
"Well, the paperwork isn't the hard part. Writing is easy," eyes askance, voice lowered to mark it as an aside, "if you bothered to graduate high school." The way he said this made it sound...a little mean? Really? It didn't seem like it was directed at Shorty, more a general statement, but still.
He did not elaborate, instead picking up a slice of pizza and starting into it.
Shorty saw that! Heard that. One of his senses detected that in some way.
"Do you know a lot of people who haven't? Graduated highschool, I mean." Shorty was too young to be graduated! But he was not the kind of person to hold 5 year grudges over insults, so he shrugged it off! He was still smarter than his RIVAL. After all, he was the one who realized how great an opportunity joining TEAM ROCKET was!
He set the slice down and finished chewing before he responded. "Most people don't, because of the law that excuses you from school while you're on your training journey. They just decide to stay on it indefinitely and never go finish school. It's a really stupid law." Man, Baxter actually sounded remotely angry about something. He was even glaring, though not at anything in particular, sort of down at the table.
Shorty almost felt a bit guilty.
"Um... Y-you think so? I didn't mean to-- I mean I was just... my rival!" Okay, more than a bit guilty.
Baxter was tired, and being tired gave him a tendency to actually get angry about stuff. And man, he did actually have a whole repertoire of things that really pissed him off about the world, but how often did he ever get around to expressing them?
He actually looked at Shorty now, looking, at the very least, visibly annoyed. "We live in a country that sanctions glorified cockfighting and gives rewards for sending animals into battle against each other, while encouraging ignorance and ignoring education. We give children dangerous Pokémon to play with and tell them to have fun. Did you know a ghastly can kill a man near-instantly, they're that poisonous? And Lavender Town gives those out as starters! It's really ridiculous!"
"I, er..." Gosh this was a first for Shorty. He never thought about any of that before.
"I-I'm sorry mister Baxter! I was also thinking that, you know, I didn't want to ever see Tilly get hurt so-- so I never send her out to fight! And that's why she won't evolve! And and Retter-- I mean oh gosh I'm sorry!" Was Shorty crying? Better not let Baxter notice this. KEEP ON NOT LOOKING AT SHORTY PLEASE. EXCEPT YOU ARE. OH SNAP.
You could just see the "oh, fuck" cross Baxter's face. He sank back in his chair, brow furrowed, shoulders hunched, eyes downcast. He wasn't quite sure what to say; he hadn't really meant to go off on a tirade like that and he especially hadn't meant to upset Shorty.
"It's not about you," he mumbled finally. "I'm really sorry, it's just...I get so mad at this country sometimes... I really didn't mean to...mm..." He trailed off, running a hand through his hair.
"No, it's okay... I'm kind of glad someone sees my view on some of it... I don't really like the thought of making Tilly fight. Sometimes I wonder if I even want her to evol--" NO SHORTY DON'T SAY THAT SHE'LL LOOK SO COOL WHEN SHE DOES!!!
"She'd no longer be the cute Tilly I know now." SHORTY ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME!?
AUGH HE FELT REALLY BAD ABOUT BRINGING ALL THIS UP NOW dammit Baxter why'd you have to go and do that. He wrapped his arms around himself, still not quite looking up. "Yeah, um, it's true some Pokémon really like fighting, but some don't and I think it's wrong to force them to if they don't want to..."
He sat up, hands falling to his lap, and looked to Shorty. "Anyway, um, I'm sorry. We can talk about something else."
"No, I'm sorry. I know you weren't aiming any of that at me. But... I dunno. sometimes I wonder if I'm doing the right thing. I dunno." Shorty was having a rare moment of not being utterly hyper and cheerful. BAXTER MUST HAVE HIT A SOFT SPOT.
"Um... what would you like for Christmas?" Shorty asked in an attempt to take Mister Baxter's offer for a much needed SUBJECT CHANGE.
YES CHANGE OF SUBJECT--oh. Er... Some recognition? That'd be nice. He gave kind of a nervous smile, glancing away and reaching up to comb his fingers through his bangs. "Um...there's really nothing I want..." HE COULD NEVER THINK OF HOW TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION.
"We could have a big party! And you could come too! Well you work that day so it could be the day before or after but we could have ice cream and A BIG TURKEY and ice cream, too!" Shorty was already feeling better at this idea he just made up from nothing as he is wont to do. At least this one doesn't involve chasing fake pokemon with other fake pokemon.
"Um, but I thought you were going to spend Christmas with ..." that guy what was his name again "with your um mentor?" TRUTHFULLY BAXTER DIDN'T REALLY WANT TO WORK ON CHRISTMAS. It was just preferrable to sitting at home alone with books and videogames and Speedy for company. (And Speedy sucked at Tetris Attack. No lie.)
"OH RIGHT I WAS DOING THAT WASN'T I?" Shorty got so excited he FORGOT about that!
"Well-- well some time! It will happen and it'll be fun! And we can bring our pokemon and let them play together it'll be SO CUTE I mean uh cool. It'll be cool. And then we could have cake!"
Some time, huh? He smiled. "Yeah, I'd like that." SPEEDY AND TABBY DID NOT GET ALONG so perhaps Tilly would make a better friend for him. "But we could do that any time, not just on Christmas."
"Hey, you're right!" Shorty liked where this was going!
"Maybe we could do that from time to time, let our pokemon hang out together!" A new friend for Tilly as well as for Shorty? SCORE.
"Um, well, my next day off is Sunday, if you're free then..." Oh man an actual friend yesss. Of course there was Mariana but Shorty was actually in his vicinity so that made him slightly better by default.
"I'm off Sunday, so it's a deal! We could meet somewhere and take them to the park, or like go to one of our houses!" Shorty's place was a little on the small side, but as far as he knew they didn't have any Charizards.
"I have a terrarium for Speedy at my apartment... Tilly's a totodile, right? She might like that..." He was just sort of musing on the option, but he did figure Speedy would be kind of boring at a park and he wasn't really comfortable taking him over to Shorty's place just yet.
"Oh man that'd be awesome! She'd really like that! And they could play together in it, too!" For a moment, Shorty could swear he felt one of his pokeballs twitch excitedly. ...Maybe he was imagining things.
"Okay! Then we can meet at my place! Um...! Here!" He pulled a pen out of his back pocket while reaching out for a napkin, and he quickly jotted down his address and cell phone number on it before sliding it across the table to Shorty. "There's my number too so you can call me if you get lost."
"Okay, thanks!" Shorty now had a new friend-- for him and for Tilly! He looked forward to two things this week: Visiting Duncan's family, and a fun day with Mister Baxter. He could feel that Tilly was excited, too.