Remind Me Why
"I don't understand how this is supposed to work..." Shemp said uncertainly, rubbing his neck. Stray flecks of fur fell through his paw. "So... we write a letter and stick it in this box, and somehow Rollie will be able to read it in the future?"
"Yes, but it's not..." Piers sighed, poking his pencil with his thumb halfheartedly. The parchment before him was still blank, mirroring his thoughts. What did he tell Rollie? What did he say? He did not want her to worry about him, but... But what if they were not able to return home? Jasmine had barely been able to move them forward in time at all before collapsing again! Piers rubbed his eyes wearily. "The box will be buried under the fountain, like Micle said. And then it'll just... be there, until that ninetails - Callahan - gets the pokemon in the present to dig it up."
Shemp pondered this over. Piers did not want to look at the linoone too closely. Three days it had been since they had all been sent back in time, and Shemp looked worse than ever. He barely ate, did not seem to sleep, and small tufts of his fur were falling out constantly. Piers shivered, thinking of his uncle. Not the same situation, he knew, but he was disheartened to think that Shemp was becoming ill before his very eyes, and Piers had no idea how to help him.
"So, this box was always under the fountain, then?" Shemp asked finally. "This box with letters from us in the past, is there in the... the future? The present?"
Piers furrowed his brows, then chuckled slightly. "It's hard to wrap my mind around as well. All I know is we have a chance to speak to Rollie and Jacqueline, and I intend to take full advantage of it." Piers nodded, looking back down at his blank sheet. "I mean... as soon as I think of what to write."
Shemp let out a long breath through his nostrils, turning to his own empty letter. He struggled to pick up his pencil in his claws, fumbling it clumsily. Piers glanced at him carefully, smiling when he saw his friend starting to write. His penmanship was rather... untidy, but Shemp seemed to have no trouble thinking of what to say. Piers turned back to his own letter, the smile fading. 'What do I tell her? Do I reassure her? Lie to her? Tell her the truth?..'
Piers sighed again, then picked up his pencil and began to write.
"Team Rush!" Shroomsworth called out, waving several sheets of paper in the air. Rollie elbowed past the other screeching mons, practically tackling the breloom to the ground in her haste to get her letters. Shroomsworth jumped, almost recoiling from the sandslash before him. He smiled kindly, but could not hide the look of distaste at Rollie's uncouth behaviour toward the other pokemon. Not that she cared; she felt she would gladly hamstring everyone in the vicinity for a word from Piers and Shemp. She held out her paws eagerly, her brow wrinkling in confusion at all the paper pressed into her palms.
"Um, I only have two partners," she said in confusion.
"These were all addressed to Team Rush," Shroomsworth said impatiently. "Please move along, I have many more letters to hand out."
Rollie stepped back uneasily, the other pokemon flooding over her hastily as Shroomsworth called out the next team. She clutched the bundle of letters to her breast tightly as she pushed back through the crowd, heading for where her brother waited with Jacqueline.
Rameon was standing on his toes, trying to look over the crowd, as Rollie finally broke free from the mob of anxious villagers. Rameon looked to her quickly, anxiety overriding any attempt to appear calm and level. Jacqueline bounced from his side excitedly, crying her name.
"Mama, mama!" she squealed, hopping around her. "Mama, dada!"
"Yes baby, I have a letter from dada," she said breathlessly, finally taking a moment to look at her bundle of letters. She recognised Piers' steady hand immediately, making her heart hammer in her chest. She attempted to calm her nerves, flipping through the rest of the letters to see who else had written. She smiled when she saw Shemp's sloppy scrawl, 'Deer Rolee' written across the top in giant letters. Her smile faded as she flipped further, her brow creasing. One letter was addressed to Samuel; it took a moment for her to realise it must have come from Ingto. She was surprised by how neat his writing was, considering he had paws and no fingers. She found herself incredibly curious as to what Ingto was writing about, but quickly decided it was not any of her business. She flipped to the next sheet, trying to stave off her impatience to read the note from Piers. Her ears prickled, not recognising the writing. When she saw it was addressed to Rameon, she suddenly remembered Shania. She swallowed hard, feeling guilt rise in her again. She held out the letter to Rameon.
"This is - " She cut herself off as her brother nearly snatched it from her hold, unable to hide his eagerness any longer. She grinned, looking back to the remaining notes in her hand. One big one was, interestingly, intended for Tyke and the bros. Her eyebrows shot up when she realised it was from Fancy, with a smaller page stuck to the back from Xay. She let out a soft breath of relief, trying to hold back tears. She missed her friends so much. Almost as much as Piers and Shemp. She finally looked to the last letter in her hand, ears drooping when she saw Sirene's name at the top. She tapped the pages back together into a pile, releasing a soft breath. King's Pride and the bros were nearby, watching the crowd curiously. Although they had all wanted to get closer to see what all the hubbub was about, Rollie had bade them to stay back, worrying the smaller pokemon would get trampled in the crowd. She looked back to her papers. She hoped all the teams having their letters together meant the pokemon themselves were together as well. She made her way over to Lear and the others, all of her friends quickly getting up as she approached.
"Is it true, then?" Junior asked, practically vibrating with eagerness. "Letters from our friends?"
Rollie smiled at the hopeful, eager faces looking up at her. She nodded, holding up the stack. "Yes, there's one each from Piers, Shemp, Ingto, Fancy, Xay and Sirene."
Tyke squealed, his back end wagging as if he had a tail. "Fancy Fancy Fancy!!" he said excitedly, with such fervour that she might have reappeared right then. He pounced at her paw as Rollie rifled the bros' letters from the pile, but Rollie jerked it from his grasping claws.
"Gentle, Tyke," she said firmly. "I don't want you to tear them up." She held the letters out to Junior, who barely restrained himself any better than Tyke did. He, Diego and the nidoran hurried off several feet to read them alone. Rollie watched them for a few moments before taking out Sirene's. Lorrin grabbed it quickly from her, smiling broadly when she saw Sirene's name scribbled at the top of the page.
"Check it out, Lear!" she said cheerfully, holding it in front of the nidorino's snout. "It's really from Sirene!"
"Lorrin, I - " Lear snorted, rearing his head back from the paper. "Lorrin, I can't read it if you're pressing it into my nose! Just put it on the ground, okay?"
Lorrin heaved a sigh, placing the paper on the grass before them both and flopping down on her stomach before it. She rested her chin in her hands, cocking her head to read the letter. Lear sat down beside her, ears laid back. Rollie nodded, turning her head back to Rameon. The sandshrew was too engaged in his own letter to notice her. Rollie took in a deep breath, looking down to Jacqueline. The koffing was staring up at her, quivering. She was anxious to hear from Piers. Rollie smiled to her, lifting the baby into one arm as she trotted away to be alone, and to give Lear and Lorrin time to themselves. She thought to simply head back to her den, but she doubted that either she nor Jacqueline could wait so long. Rollie decided simply to hurry to the edge of the village, hiding herself behind the merchant's guild. She sat down heavily, Jacqueline bouncing in her lap.
"Da da da!" she squealed. Rollie chuckled, shushing the baby.
"Hush, I'm going to read it to you," she said gently. She finally held aloft Piers' letter, and read aloud.
I'm not entirely sure what I should write to you, and I wasn't sure if I should tell the truth, or hide it, or lie... But I imagine if you get this, you will be reading it to Jacqueline. Please do not read anything to her past the first paragraph. I don't want her to worry.
Shemp and I are safe... But we are somewhere in the past. We are currently in Tao village, but not our Tao village. I'm here right now with Fancy, Sirene, Ingto and Shania, and all of them are healthy and sound. They are writing their own letters, and if all goes well, you should have gotten them all in one pile. A kecleon who goes by the name 'Micle Nomel' supplied us with a box to put these all in. He seems to be some sort of village leader or hero. He goes by the name 'Grand Kec'. Maybe look it up sometime and see if you can find anything out about him, or what time we're in. Tomorrow, we'll be going on a journey to find something that will help us return. If all goes well... we'll be back before you know it. Tell Jacqueline that her dada is thinking of her always, and misses her more than she can imagine. And, of course, tell her I love her.
Now, these parts just read to yourself.
I did not want to tell you this... I did not want to worry you. I'm not sure if we will be able to return. Jasmine was badly injured when she took us back in time. She seemed to get better, for a short time... She said she would bring us back home. But when we all zapped forward, we were still in the past, and she collapsed once more. She is dying. Our journey tomorrow is to get some kind of 'life sap' I think Micle said, something that will bring her back to life. But if we fail... if we can't get it... then we won't be able to come back.
I'm not sure what's going to happen. I'm scared. I want to hope, but I'm scared. I don't think most of the teams here realise how grave the situation is, and I don't want to tell them. I don't think Shemp knows either; he's very sick. He hasn't been sleeping or eating, and last night he broke down and cried, but wouldn't tell me why. I think I know, but... Well, I'll let him tell me when he's ready. I'm not... I mean... It's hard for me to say. Just know that, no matter what happens between us...
This is coming out wrong. I love you, Rollie. No matter what, I love you. And I'm going to do my best to come back to you and Jacqueline. Please don't despair. Anything you need to do to get through this... Anything you need to do to take your mind off me, and keep you away from the alcohol and drugs... I don't mind. Please don't destroy yourself. Try to remember that you have Jacqueline who needs you, and that even if I can't come back, even if I... I will never forget you.
Love always, Piers
Piers sniffled, wiping his eyes with his thumbs. It did nothing, tears continuing to pour out and drip off his nose onto the letter. He bowed over the table, wings over his head as he sobbed. He did not want to think that this could be goodbye to his mate, his best friend. He clutched at his hair tightly, trying to stifle his sobbing, but it was impossible. He missed Rollie so much. He was so afraid he would never return.
Piers cursed inwardly, huddling further away in his wings as Shemp nestled down beside him. The linoone pressed awkwardly against his flank, patting his back.
"It's... it's gonna be okay... all right?" Shemp said. He tried to sound optimistic, but Piers could hear him clearing his throat over and over. He was barely able to keep back his own tears. "Jasmine'll be fine... and then we can all go home."
"I know that, and I try to believe it," Piers choked out. "But we have so much to lose if we can't get home!"
"I know," Shemp said grimly after a moment. "I... trust me, I know."
Piers kept his head buried under his wings, unable to stop the torrent of tears now that they had gotten away from him. Shemp tried to stay by his side, tried to comfort him, but he did not know what to do. And what could he truly say to reassure the man? More false promises? Shemp could not even make himself believe them. He walked slowly back to his own letter, rubbing his eyes. He would be crying too, if he had not exhausted himself the night before. Shemp sighed, picking up his note to read it over.
this iss ShEmp. There makin uss right leterrs to everone in the footur, i thinc in caes soemthin hapens to uss. We ar goin somewere danjerus, i thinc, cuz Peers iss reely werried. he dusnt say so but i ken tel. he iss reely quite and right now he iss jus starin at his leter and not rightin anythin. o wait, he jus starrtet. hehe. well, i am doin ok. i dont feel sooper good, i gess cuz i havnt been eatin or sleepin. i jus dont feel... on? i feel off. i thoght it wuz the hungover but i still feel reely bad. Peerz is bein nise though, so i will be ok.
i dunno how muhc he wil tell yoo, so i will right wut i kno. We foun Jazmin, but she wuz hurt reely bad, all burrnt and bluddy. We tried to run to Tow but then we wer in thiss place with
it iss kinda skary. i dont kno wut we wil fase and Peerz is skared to so... well, we will try and get hoem as soon as we ken. tell jakkee i say hi and i luv her, and hoepfuly we wil be bak befor you kno it!
Rollie let out a wretched sigh, dropping the two letters to the ground and covering her face with her paws. She had read the letters so many times since she had received them earlier in the day that she had them memorised, but still she could not stop herself from picking them back up to read over yet again. Night had fallen over the village; within her den, king's pride and the bros slept, anxious but more peaceful than they had in days. Excited to know that their friends would soon be returning. They did not know what she did.
Maybe they would never return. The thought rang hollow in her skull, echoing down into her bones. She slumped over hopelessly, clutching Piers' letter tightly to her chest. She could not imagine trying to move on from him, trying to find another mate to raise their baby alongside her. She sniffled, tears dripping down her cheeks again. Rather than bring her hope, the letters simply crushed her. Callahan had been alive during the time these letters were made, that was what she had heard from the fox. So wouldn't he know whether or not the others would come back safely? She wrapped a paw over her eyes. Well, perhaps he did. Perhaps he knew they did not come back, and so he had decided to reveal the letters to them all.
The sandslash jerked in surprise, jumping to her feet clumsily as she hastened to dry her face. She doubted it would make a difference, but when she saw the speaker - Aerill - she decided not to fret over it. She slumped back against the wall of her den, unable to meet the concerned crobat's eyes. For days now, Aerill had barely been around them at all, drifting home only very occasionally. Rollie was sure it was mainly for Samuel's sake, but the man always managed to slip out just before she arrived.
"What's wrong?" Aerill asked, stepping closer. Rollie snorted, waving the letters in her hand.
"We got notes from everyone today," she said roughly, sniffling. "From Piers and... everybody. There's even one for Samuel."
Aerill jerked, as though to snatch the pages from Rollie's paw, but she managed to compose herself. "How is that possible?" she said in amazement. Rollie sighed, rubbing her eyes.
"Well... they're in the past, and they buried the notes in a box under the fountain," she explained. "And Callahan, the ninetails, he was alive when they did it so he waited until now to tell us about them." Aerill looked more confused than understanding at this explanation, but Rollie simply shrugged. "I don't think about it too much. The letters give me enough to think on."
"What do they say?" Aerill asked softly. Rollie thrust out Piers' letter, shaking her head.
"I don't think I can even talk about it anymore. Listen, uh..." Rollie ruffled through the loose sheets of paper, pulling out Samuel's letter. "Samuel isn't here, and I have his letter for him, like I said. Would you deliver it to him? I can't bear it right now... I need to sleep."
Aerill took it carefully from her hand, nodding. "I can do so, yes..." She looked at the letters silently, Rollie turning to walk into her den. She had not made it very far before the corbat called out. "Piers... Did he mention a lampent?"
Rollie creased her brow, turning to look at the crobat. "A lampent? No... No, he didn't."
Aerill slumped slightly, but nodded. "Very well. Good night, Rollie."
Rollie let out a breath, turning to walk into her den. There was something ringing in her head about that. A lampent, and Piers. But she was too weary, too miserable, to think on it too hard. She entered the darkness of her den, and wondered if she would even be able to sleep that night.