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Frontier Town Founder's Square

Odette was feeling conflicted. She should have been happy that she’d been making friends, keeping up a good job and social standing, and making decent strides in figuring all this shit out…for a while, at least. But it had been days since she last spoke to Nolan, and she hadn’t heard shit from anyone. Would it be out of line to chase him down again? Would it come off as weird? Obsessive? Was her comment about sapience that bad of a turnoff despite how he’d responded? Christ, if she’d fucked that up before she even got her foot in the door, she’d never forgive herself.

As she has mindlessly turned into the square, she stopped upon nearly bumping into another body. It was a bit taller than her, and built and—

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

She’d had a good streak—no, a fantastic streak—of avoiding him since that group meeting. But Forlas was small after all, because here she was, standing face to face with the one ‘mon she didn’t want to run into again any time soon. Images of their first meeting, their weird argument, flitted through her mind in an instant, and her lips settled into a loose, unimposing frown. It took a lot of energy to ensure it stayed that way.

“Sorry,” she said stiffly. “Not looking where I’m going.”
Oh no. It was Odette. Gladion couldn't quite see her as the same kind of cataclysmic threat via having personal knowledge about him that he used to fear, now that it wasn't a one-of-a-kind problem anymore. (And maybe that didn't seem so bad anymore. It had gone well enough last time at least?) But it wasn't as if they'd parted on good terms at any point ever either.

"Nah, don't worry about that, I get that a lot. I just blend right into the scenery really well," he laughed. "But really, it's fine."
She stared.

She just furrowed her brow and stared at him. He was…laughing? Laughing like they were buddy-buddy? Like they hadn’t fought every time they came into contact with each other? Had she jumped ship into another identical world with another Gladion without realizing it? She glanced around suspiciously, waiting for some sort of punchline here. When none came, she turned to give him another once over.

“…right. Okay,” she said. What the hell else was she supposed to follow that up with? “Have a good day”? “Nice hot weather we’re having”? Or maybe a nice little “Are you in the mood to be a dick to me today or do I get a pass?”

“You..” she said hesitantly, “seem like you’re in a good mood.”
“No idea, honestly. Strictly speaking I should feel like shit, but I don’t… The dungeon we connected Betel to sucked. Acted like it was alive and withheld the core until we had a fun little interrogation… But, hey, don’t have to worry about you knowing things about me if I’ve been pressed to spill my guts anyway, so that’s nice.”

He looked down to her and raised a brow. “How’s schmoozing with the scum of the earth going?”
So they were doing this. Okay. She just didn't know where to begin with that, as indicated by the way she stumbled over her words.

"I--" she stared. "I'm not--" What the fuck did he mean about knowing things about him?

"It's fine, I guess. Seemed confident I could get in, haven't heard back." That was the thought hole she'd already been going down, but she wasn't sure how keen she was about going down it with him.

"I'm sorry, can you backtrack for a second? What do you mean worry about me knowing things about you?"
Gladion sighed. Odette was, in many ways, a deeply frustrating person to talk to. “You’re close friends with… not me exactly, but a version of me. There will be some differences, but also the same core. And the core that seems to happen in ever world is incidentally all the shit I don’t want to talk about. Or for people to know. No shit I wasn’t super fond of the idea of having you around. You gonna tell me that if the chronology were reversed and you had a stranger who knew all the core scars on your psyche, you wouldn’t be uncomfortable with that?”
She fell quiet while she pondered on his words. She supposed she hadn't thought of it that way. Initially, all she'd heard was that there was another Gladion here, and she'd been jarred that another version of her friend was around. She hadn't even stopped to think how it might have scrambled his brain. Knowing someone he'd never met or heard of before likely knew some very personal things about him.

Sighing, she began to rub her forehead. "No. You're right," she said. "I wouldn't exactly be thrilled about that. So I don't blame you for getting defensive."

She let the words hang in the air for a bit before looking back at him. "But that said, I wouldn't have immediately gone off on them for hinting that they knew a version of me, especially knowing it wasn't intended to be malicious. Chances are they were jarred too, by both the implications of a parallel world, and the circumstances at hand. It's not like they asked to be put into a situation with an alternate version of someone they know well. It's just a set of unfortunate conditions that are out of both parties' control."

Crossing her arms, she aimed her eyes down at the ground and began to drag her boot against the sand. "It's not like I ever had any intent to use what I may or may not know about you against you. One of the perks of being a very good friend of a version of you is that I know you don't like to talk, and I know you get antsy when people probe you, especially when it comes to what I think you're hinting at. So what reason would I have to even go there with you? To piss you off on a whim? For all I know, the things that my friend Gladion went through are far different from what you went through. I have no way to know, and it's not my business to inquire about those things unless you asked me to first. There might be curiosity, yes, but not enough to run you down and ruin your day with invasive questions about it. I'm sorry my presence caused you so much immediate strife, but I never meant you any ill will, and you snapping at me for it was uncalled for."
“Well… I’d already started trying to disassociate myself from you because I was certain you weren’t getting away from the rail squad. Which…”

Gladion dropped into a tone halfway between awkward muttering and plain speech. He wasn’t good at this honesty shit. “Yeah, alright, that was a bad idea. And given the subsequent meth user’s children’s toy convention scrap metal remarks… Y’know, I wasn’t putting escalation entirely off the table there?”

He took a moment to breathe, and spoke again with more conviction. “And, honestly, still not comfortable with you siding up to the Coven, even if it’s for a plot… You can probably guess…

“Actually, shoot. Tired of guessing. And I’m not gonna be freaked out if I hear the answer anymore: What’ve you got on me? Rip the bandage off.”
Odette grit her teeth and averted her eyes away. "Yeah, uh...that was a bit much on my part. These jaws kinda...pack their own 'oomph' sometimes."

She had to resist the urge to roll her eyes when he brought up his opposition to her finessing her way into the Coven. But, she supposed she understood him a little better now and could at least parse his reservations. "Look, if my plan even works, I never had any plan to bring you up. Nobody's name is coming out of my mouth regardless of what happens; it's my ass and my ass alone." Ironic how she'd just gotten done telling Archie to rely on the team, yet here she was, certain she was rushing into that whole ordeal alone...

Her eyes went wide when he asked her to talk to him about her Gladion. For a moment, she hesitated. "Are you sure?" she queried. But, she needn't have bothered. He seemed sure enough.

Deciding this was likely going to be a long conversation, she settled on the bench next to him. It felt bad that she was about to spill her friend's information to somebody else. But, did it really count if that somebody else was him?

"Well," she began. "Your name in my world is Gladion Allen. You have a little sister, Lillie. You have a mother, Lusamine. You had a father named Mohn. Mohn went missing in an Ultra Wormhole, and Lusamine went off the rails." She stalled over what to say next, but eventually managed. "She got involved with another, more powerful man, with access to things she needed to research Ultra Space and Wormholes. First it was about getting Mohn back, but then it just turned into some obsession with becoming one with Ultra Beasts. It turned into...experimenting on you. Experimenting on Lillie. Experimenting on others."

She'd become very interested in her own lap during this conversation. "You ran away. You stole a Null that kept you company during your bad nights and ran away. But you left without Lillie. She eventually got out too, but you were so wracked with guilt, you couldn't look at her. You got involved with a little gang called Team Skull. You didn't know your mom was using them too until it was too late. She sucked us all into Ultra Space. When we got out, you took the fall for Aether. You wanted to be Alola's first Champion, but you gave it up to pick up after your mom. To make it up to Lillie."

She let Gladion sit with that for a while. She wondered how much of it applied to him. But, she kept talking. She felt like he needed to hear this part. "You forfeited being a Champion, but you made the Elite 4. You made friends. Your Null evolved. You're the happiest you've ever been since your dad was around--your words, not mine. Hau and Guzma fuck with you all the time, and you act like you hate it, but gods, you think it's the funniest thing in the world." She shook her head, smiling fondly at the memory.

"Your sister loves you. Your friends love you. You're doing really well right now."
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“Thank you…”

That was a lot to take in, and wholly unexpected compared to what he’d been prepared for. He was having trouble finding a place to even start. He chose something small as his foothold

“Alright. I guess this is the least significant point of difference, but it feels so petty on a multiversal level I have to point it out,” he laughed, “My name is Gladion Mohn. My dad is Professor Lindon Mohn. Weird change. Other names sound right to me. And… The gas exchange between the lab and the wormhole my dad… y’know. It doesn’t have oxygen, so she just… gave up. Still left, still took Hazel, still… didn’t take Lillie. But she should be… She’ll be…”

She’d stolen the Cosmog when she’d fled. That hadn’t made sense to him. But maybe it would make sense if Lusamine had started using it.

“…Hope she’s fine. She’s out now at least. We were gonna meet before I got wrapped up this, so I guess that’s gonna work out, which is nice.”

He took a moment. Odette probably wouldn’t judge. It was a lot. “I feel… kinda frivolous admitting this in light of that, but honestly I was more worried about the twin shit.”
The name difference wasn’t too major. Mohn being Mohn’s last name felt funny to her, but she didn’t say that. But he still had a Lusamine, still had a Lillie. Lusamine was still batshit it seemed. She frowned sympathetically.

“That’s unfortunate,” she muttered. “I hope you get a chance to meet up. Eventually.”

In spite of everything she’d just dropped on him, she couldn’t help but laugh. “No, no twin shit. You’re older than Lillie by like two years, I think,” she said. “You guys almost look like twins though, I’ll say that much.” Or maybe she shouldn’t have. She cleared her throat to brush it off.

“Uh…if you don’t mind me asking just because I’m curious…how are the rest of them? Hau, Plumeria, Guzma? If you even know them? I assume you at least know the boys, because you didn’t look at me like I was crazy when I said they fucked around with you…”
“Wha— Oh, I see…” The idea of not being identical twins with Lillie almost sent him reeling, wondering how it made sense, but saying ‘you look like twins, I’ll say that much’ about siblings was weird enough that it sounded like the comfortable level of euphemism. Especially if it meant he looked younger than the average guy his age.

“Anyways, I know two of three, and it’s not weird to think I’ll meet another person in the next few years. Been accused of needing to do so in the past, and I’m clearly behind where your friend is in his life anyways. Don’t know a Hau yet. I’ve met Guzma, but we’re not particularly close. He mostly deals with problems in Skull. I don’t create any. So, you know, I’m better acquainted with Plumeria. Especially because she was better equipped to deal with my kinds of issues. She was the one who took me under her wing when I arrived, and is probably the human I’m closest to…”

His voice warmed. “Only ‘cause Hazel isn’t one, though. Honestly, hearing she’s doing better is the best news. You digging at this body had me wondering if you didn’t know her, that scared the shit out of me too.”
Oh, so he didn’t know Hau. Yet, maybe. Or maybe this was a timeline where they never met. It’s not like she’d ever know for sure but it was interesting to think about.

She nodded along as he recounted his relationships with Plumeria and Guzma. “That’s pretty in line with how you were in my world. Plumeria had you under her wing, but you knew Guzma a little too well, which…I guess was why you two butted heads for so long.”

He brought up the name Hazel again, and her eyes widened in understanding. “Oh, Hazel is your Null?” she said. Now him bringing up that name in their initial fight made sense. “Oh, yes. I do know Hazel. But, my Gladion calls her Theliel. And yes, she is doing well. A very healthy and headstrong silvally. Keeps your ass in check sometimes,” she added jokingly.
“That she does,” he laughed. Seems some things never really changed about Hazel, too. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that name before at all. Not even a plant, clearly your friend’s got a few more mental tracks for naming than me.”

As tempting as it was to indulge in pointless ramblings about Hazel, there were still curiosities to be settled. “I do wonder what you mean about Guzma. Honestly, I hardly know the guy. Right now he doesn’t know me well at all. What’s up with him?”
“Yeah, my Gladion has an interesting theme with the nicknames he gave his team. Something something angels and seraphs, he explained it to me while we were trying not to die in Ultra Space.”

She then quirked a brow at him. “Oh…well,” she said prior to clearing her throat. “Remember how I said that Lusamine uh, experimented on you and others?” She hesitated. She felt bad she was even saying this out loud. “Guzma was others. But instead of, I guess, finding solidarity in it you two kinda just…took your anger at the situation out on each other. And you both suck at communicating your feelings around things that traumatized you, so you let it fester before it ultimately came to a head.”

Gladion felt he should have something to say about how… silly it felt when put that way. His instinct was to push back and say he’d never do anything like that…

But, well, it was Odette he was talking to.

“Fortunately as you’re well aware I’d never do anything even vaguely resembling that with anyone, of course,” he deadpanned.

“Would it be uncouth of me to ask where you factor into all this. You’re the only one who’d actually have to deal with me knowing about you, so if this’s the end of what’ll you answer, I can’t complain. But you do still have me at a disadvantage: You clearly know me, but I still don’t know how you factor into this equation. That over the line?”
She really had to laugh at that. “No, of course not. The thought never occurred to me.”

That laugh was gone as quick as it came, though. She was left shooting him another questioning look—not out of offense, more out of concern. “I mean…I’m happy to answer,” she said hesitantly. “Well. ‘Happy’ is a bit strong of a word. But I won’t not answer. However I’m gonna hit you with another ‘are you sure?’ Because it’s kind of a clusterfuck.”

Again, he seemed sure, so she sighed. Now this was rougher terrain. Spilling her fucking guts to a virtual stranger who wasn’t really a virtual stranger because he was a parallel universe copy of one of her closest friends. Maybe that’s what made talking so easy. And maybe that’s what made it so excruciating.

“I don’t even know where to start there,” she said, rubbing the side of her face as she looked up toward the sky. A pained grimace had plastered itself on her face, and didn’t look to be ready to go away any time soon.

“The man Lusamine met after Mohn disappeared? He was my biological father,” she began. “I didn’t even know the man existed when they met, but apparently, they had a thing. And through that thing, Lusamine got access to some things that helped with her research.”

Lowering her voice, she looked back at Gladion. “See, there’s a type of ‘mon in my world that uh…connect to humans the same way she wanted to connect to Ultra Beasts. And my father, unfortunately, knew more about them than anyone. So, she thought she could find a way to make that sort of thing transfer to her. So using what she got from my father, she used you, Lillie, and eventually Guzma as guinea pigs to test her hypotheses. Then I moved to Alola. I became friends with Lillie and the guy Hau through my mum. I had…”

She trailed off as she felt an obnoxious heat prick her on the tip of her beak and spread across her face. She started rubbing her hands together nervously. “Let’s call it a friendly fling with Guzma. That’s how I met you and Plumeria. But, then he and I started fighting. All of this at the same time Alola was holding a tournament to install its first League-sanctioned Champion and we—minus your sister because she can’t stand battling—were all at each other’s throats over the Champion’s title until the very scary coincidence came to light, thanks to your gracious mother getting up to opening some Wormholes. All the cats escaped the fucking bag after that.”
Gladion raised a talon pensively. "To be clear here, when you say out parents had 'a thing' you mean that in a 'political-economic unit I don't know the exact noun for' way and not a 'does this make us interdimensional step-siblings?' way, right? Because if it's the former I'd really like to know that, and it's it's latter honestly I'd like you to lie to me. The idea of someone with Lusamine-buying money is terrifying but that's really the lesser of two evils here."

He cleared his throat, and really tried to clear that thought from his mind too, though to a lesser degree of success. "Okay, okay, I guess that's not really the important part." (Are you Guzma's age? I'd mistaken you for mine.) "I'm not sure what kind of species you're talking about here, but I also haven't seen any Ultra Beasts bar Cosmog, so I might be missing the hint there. I... I hope for Lillie's sake that I'm not. If we had that as a difference between our worlds... really wouldn't be so bad."
Odette pressed her lips together. “I—well…they never got married, if that’s what you’re concerned about,” she said, averting her eyes away. “But yeah, no, totally not proverbial step-siblings.”

She sighed again. “They’re not Ultra Beasts. Honestly, I don’t think they’re much like Ultra Beasts at all. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, chances are you’ve never seen or heard of them. They’re of a more eldritch breed. Cosmog—or Lunala, now, I guess—is fine. Not related to these types at all.”
"Definitely haven't heard of them. I guess..."

Gladion made a choking noise as his brain caught up to his ears. "Lunala? One of Alola's legends is a fucking ultra beast? And Lillie's just... running around with that. Great. That's just fantastic. And you've got even worse species running around?"
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