"But why throw the hats?"
Theodore folded his poncho as he entered behind Vincent and Jacqueline. "It's tradition, Fifi, it's not supposed to make sense; and it's a place of so-called higher-learning, so it really isn't supposed to make sense."
Vincent gave his fiancée a kiss before re-acquainting with the members of his family who returned ahead of him from, or did not attend, his graduation ceremony. While Hal and his girls traveled from the event under their own power to make arrangements for the housewarming party, Jean had remained at Vincent and Jacqueline's new apartment to facilitate the needs of movers and delivery-men; buzzing doors and signing paperwork.
When the man of the hour walked in, he was greeted by a new poker table, a surprise gift Hal bought for the graduate, its surface loaded with snacks to share while watching the films that were scheduled to play that evening on the entertainment center that arrived earlier that afternoon.
Vincent gave a hug to each of the shoe-box dratinis. Ivy was in the kitchen preparing dinner while Lynn was half-entangled by cables of every kind, finding that electronic devices' connectors were not designed with a dragon's claws in mind. Despite how poor and sickly they looked when he first saw them three-and-a-half years prior, they had thrived under Hal's care, as had he under theirs.
Dinner passed under an atmosphere that wanted to feel jovial and celebratory, but was tainted by a sense of incompleteness. It quickly became an elephant in the room, and lingered throughout the first and second films, becoming larger as each hour passed by. Lynn and Ivy became vicariously uncomfortable as their family's members were paying less and less attention to the films, and more attention to the door and balcony any time a knocking or tapping sound could be heard.
As the second film's credits rolled, there was no liveliness left in the party and everyone wordlessly agreed to call it a night.
Jacqueline kissed Vincent on his forehead. "I'm going to bed. Daddy wants me to show up early and get my new office arranged before normal hours so there won't be any silly hiccups."
Hal and his girls said their good-nights before flying back to Vincent's childhood home, where they now kept residence. Hal was still uneasy about flying, but the fraternal twins were naturals in the air and he trusted them to catch him if he accidentally looked straight down and froze.
Fiona flopped onto the couch near Vincent and whined, "I ate too muuuuuuuch!"
Vincent rubbed her belly gently. "You always do when you try to compete with the dragons. Just give up on something for once; you aren't seven feet tall, and I don't think an extra twenty kilos would look as good on your frame as it does on Lynn's and Ivy's. Be glad you have a metabolism that burns off anything you can shove inside your mouth."
A green bird rapped on the door of apartment 6A three times. Vincent bolted from his seat and opened the door with an excitement that evaporated instantly. Bowing slightly to take a humble stance, Crying-Tree presented him an ornate wooden box and paced away without any further communication.
It seemed out of place when Vincent sat the box on his green-felted table, surrounded on all sides by empty bowls and stray pop-corns. Vincent pressed its latch and opened it slowly and carefully, finding within it an apricorn pokeball of even more ornate design than its case and a folded sheet of paper bearing a wax seal embossed with elegant ideographs. He read the letter aloud to himself while Jean secured the doors as always.
"To the recipient of this message: To celebrate my 84th year as a pokemon trainer, I have decided to give myself a wonderful gift: retirement. At my age, I cannot give my companions the attention they deserve. I asked each of my pokemon to choose a trainer amongst those who received my special badge, so they may continue to enjoy the companionship of a dedicated and resourceful guardian. Please accept this pokemon into your life as it is willing to accept you into its own, and forge the bonds of both courage and compassion that I saw in you when I selected you to wear my true badge. -- Iwamoto"
Vincent re-folded the missive, closed it within the box, and held it in his lap for a few minutes. He then walked over to Jean, who was seated in an opposing sectional, and entrusted it to him. "I think I'll worry about this when I have room for another worry. Protect it until then."
Jean placed his palms securely over the case's sides and looked into Vincent's eyes with genuine appreciation of his trust. He stared for a moment before giving up on his hope that he and Vincent had been together enough to form an empathic connection and spoke in a low, but articulate, voice, "I will not allow any of us to be harmed."
The gallade slid his right hand across the case's foremost edge and glanced at a small shelf, upon which, in a stand sized for a baseball, rested a game-house pokeball with a black ribbon around it. "Never again."
Aside from a brief inward sniffle, Vincent silently retired to his room with Theodore following closely behind, who was muttering something about fools who don't get their eight hours at night.
Fiona crawled around the furniture's bend to sit next to Jean. "He's worried because Vera broke her promise, isn't he?"
Jean did not respond.
"Are you gonna sleep sitting here?"
Jean did not respond, but did close his eyes.
"Good, because I'm too stuffed to move again." Fiona clapped her hands to turn off the lights, leaned against Jean, and hugged a throw pillow tightly to keep warm as both fell asleep. Her pillow seemed out of place, as its chaotic red string binding and loose, exposed polyester stuffing did not do much to complement the apartment's decor.
Jacqueline's mission of getting out of bed and off to work without awakening the others was mostly a success, although she knew that Jean was aware of her motions. Glancing out through the balcony's sliding-glass door to see the sky as it started to show a first hint of new day's light, Jackie noticed that the door was now adorned by a small suction cup with a hook piercing a small piece of paper that read, "please unlock this before you go. ~ 'V."
Vincent began to feel uncomfortably hot and broke a sweat, which is unusual for someone accustomed to sleeping in the embrace of a fire-type. His thirst got the best of him and he awoke to find himself held down by a familiar weight. Vera had taken Jackie's spot on the bed shortly after she slipped out to go to work and cozied up against him. With his right arm and hand, Vincent reached across the wing that she draped upon him and gently stroked her feathers as she began to speak in her softest and most-soothing voice.
"I'm regretful that I left you to worry, but I underestimated the amount of electrical activity that yesterday's storm would bring and couldn't fly here safely until late. Still, not bad for a five-year forecast, right?"
Vincent agreed, "Not bad at all. You saw all of this, didn't you?"
Vera chirped, "this, and other, less favorable possibilities, too. I've glimpsed little bits at a time, starting from when I was released at the ruins by Eugene; he was my original trainer." The green bird sighed gently. "He didn't appreciate my candor after he used a speech T.M. on me."
Vincent raked his fingers through her plumage again. "His loss. I appreciate your candor. Well, what's next?"
Vera gently nipped Vincent on his ear and sat upright on the bed.
"If you mean the immediate future, breakfast is next. If you're asking big-picture, I don't know." Vera allowed her shoulders to droop slightly. "I'm exhausted. I've been straining my powers for most of my life to puppeteer destiny and create an opportunity to save that boy. I'll keep my right eye open for spontaneous tragedies, but other than that, I would like to remember what it is like to be surprised, to not worry about the consequences of other people's decisions, to lie on a comfortable bed and sleep peacefully until I'm not tired anymore, instead of awakening at odd hours to be in a specific place at a specific time to nudge the course of history. What's next is, I'm going to relax."
Vera rose from the bed. "But first, I want to do something special. Give me your money and go back to sleep; this team will share a late breakfast when I return."
Vincent waved toward the dresser where his wallet laid before lying back down and being engulfed by Theodore's right arm. Ever since she startled them the morning after she evolved, Tio defensively clutched Vincent whenever he was sleeping and smelled Vera nearby.
The green bird used her small suction cup hook to carry an otherwise untenable luxury ball and exited through the apartment's balcony, flying toward a much larger city whose craftsmen offered the service that Vera sought.
Vincent's home awoke to flavored scents of Chinese take-out hovering in the air, and all present members of the family expressed their pleasure in seeing their seer join them once again.
Fiona ate like she was starving, but stopped abruptly when she remembered the events of the day that Vera departed. "Vera, is he okay now? I mean, is he ever going to try to get me again?"
Vera cracked open a fortune cookie. "This says, 'the best is yet to come.' I will look forward to that! Fiona, for your first question, I believe that, yes, Mac is going to get along okay, now. For the second, why don't you go take a look at your ball?"
Fiona arched an eyebrow, left the breakfast table, and walked across the living room to find Vincent's pokeball belt. She removed from it the ball that she traded her freedom for almost four years before, wagering what little she had on little more than a hunch.
She examined her black obsidian orb with its gold-plated seal and red jasper ring near the top. It now bore an inscription, freshly carved into its surface.
"Fiona. Got away safely."