|Get off work.|
|I need to go to the mall.|
|I'll meet you at Instinct HQ.|
One weekend in Vermillion City in 1998, after finishing a load of laundry, a wife pointed out to her husband that he needed more clothes, seeing as he owned a total of three pairs of pants and two shirts and his one sweatshirt had disintegrated entirely. All of the husband's garments were identical and black, both so he didn't have to waste valuable mental energy on deciding what to wear and because his high school metalhead phase had never quite left him. Meanwhile, the family's infant child sat on the floor babbling to a Charmander plushie, entirely oblivious to the goings-on.
That week, the husband stopped at the closest available department store after work, purchased one black hoodie, and returned home with it. His wife sighed. After all, she didn't say how many more clothes he needed. After her husband left in 2000 to pursue a lucrative job opportunity in Alola, that hoodie was the only garment he left behind. After all, he wouldn't need it in a tropical locale.
On a morning much like the first in 2007, while his mom worked from home answering marketing phone calls and attending meetings over spotty video chat, Arlo wandered into his dad's room, still unoccupied, looking for something better than his pre-existing clothing. There had been recent developments in his body, and evidently whatever had created him had made a mistake. He pulled the hoodie over his head, tightened the drawstring, and looked into the mirror, satisfied for the first time with what he saw. Or rather, what he didn't see. It became the only thing he wore outside of formal events and his school uniform, and his mom taught him how to sew so she wouldn't have to keep making repairs on it.
Over the weekend in 2009, Arlo was able to negotiate his mom into letting him keep the hoodie for his Pokemon journey, provided he added some reflective strips so he wouldn't get run over while walking at night, so he did, and set off with his Charmander across the land. On a boiling day in Phenac City, Orre, in 2015, Arlo woke up in a Pokemon center, being informed by Candela that he'd passed out from heat exhaustion in the desert and been brought in by his Pokemon because it was the only article of clothing he'd brought. And in the basement of the Team GO Rocket building in 2016, Cliff helped him embroider an R onto it so he had something more comfortable that still abided by the guidelines for Arlo's first meeting with Giovanni about the new Shadow Pokemon program. He hadn't gotten around to getting a proper binder yet, which made the official Team Rocket uniform not an option, put shortly.
As a function of being Arlo's standard garment for 15 years running, the hoodie had gotten a lot of stitching and patching over the years, and contained a generous estimate of 10% of the original material. Many of those patches had to themselves be patched due to wear, tear, and that even though Arlo's mom taught him basic sewing, he never got particularly good at it. In short, the interior surface of the hoodie roughly resembled the traditional depiction of Frankenstein's monster, all in black and red. So it didn't come as a surprise when one morning in 2023, Arlo slid on the hoodie over his head getting ready to face the day and the stitch connecting the left arm to the body burst, resulting in the sleeve only holding on by a patch on the top, which itself lost connection as Arlo continued sliding on the garment.
Once the first two seams had broken, the rest followed, with the long-suppressed rips finally taking full form, no longer able to be held back by Arlo's attempts at repairing. Stitch by stitch, the garment disintegrated, the section with the embroidered R being the only part of it that remained reasonably intact by the end, courtesy of Cliff's superior skills. Arlo stared at the scraps of fabric in his hands, barely recognizable as having once been a cohesive garment. He'd known this day would come for a while; after all, it wasn't like a ₱500 hoodie from a department store was really designed for 15 years of constant use in battle and lab work, but he'd figured he could have stretched it further and that it wouldn't have happened all at once...but the situation was evident. The array of miscellaneous patches barely passing as a singular garment, reminiscent of the legendary Ship of Theseus in execution, had returned to its base form. The hoodie was officially dead. Of course, its polyester fibers would long outlive Arlo in a landfill somewhere, but that was little comfort.
Arlo slumped over to his closet and rummaged through his "Orre Stuff" box until he pulled out a reasonably intact and acceptable T-shirt and slid it on over his head, looking mournfully back at the remains of the hoodie on his bed as he exited. He was cold and his arms felt naked, but because he'd had his signature hoodie for his entire sentient life, he'd never gotten another one or a replacement. Really, he hadn't shopped for clothes since his trip to the Gateon Mall with Candela. After all, why did someone who always wore the same thing need multiple sets of clothing? Cliff and Sierra looked him over with confusion when he sat at the common room table, glaring downward at a cup of yogurt. Sierra was the first to comment, which didn't go well since Arlo wasn't really in a mood for conversation.
"Why are you out of uniform? We have takeovers today."
"Can't. Hoodie broke."
"Can't you just stitch it up again?"
"No. All of them got torn apart. I think it finally gave out structurally."
"Well, you could wear the official admin uniform."
"It's the wrong texture and none of us do anyway."
"Fine. Since the grunts are running the shadow raids prep, I think I can convince admin to give you time off for at least a bit until you find a new one. When you do, we can apply the official R to it."
Having finished his yogurt, Arlo dropped it into the kitchen trash can and started trudging back to his room, only to be stopped by Cliff.
"I'm...sorry for your loss, little guy." Cliff outstretched an arm for a side-hug, which Arlo reluctantly accepted. The much larger man patted his head. "I know that hoodie was really important to you. You got it from your dad, right?"
"Yeah. That, some 80s metal CDs, and the Pokemon League hat's basically it. He left for some big software job in Alola when I was, like, 3. Don't even remember what he looked like."
"Do you still have the fabric scraps from your hoodie? I might be able to make you something to keep those memories around, at least, if I can't fix it."
"Yeah. They're on my bed. I'd go get them, but I don't want to look at it. I'm going to go hang out with Spark."
|Get off work.|
|I need to go to the mall.|
|I'll meet you at Instinct HQ.|
Arlo's car slid into the parking garage at Instinct HQ. He wasn't in anything that could be charitably described as a valid parking place, diagonally taking up parts of 3 of them, but he wasn't going to be there anyway. He entered the building, was greeted by his boyfriend with a kiss on the cheek, and upon Spark seeing him visibly shivering with just the T-shirt, they wordlessly handed him their outer jacket. The couple got into Arlo's car and spun off to the Sanctum Center Mall, metalcore riffs blasting from the speakers without Arlo saying anything. Spark suspected that he'd be crying if it weren't for his dedication to his masculinity. When they arrived at the mall, they offered him their hand, which he tightly squeezed as Spark attempted to reassure him.
"It shouldn't be that hard to find another black hoodie in the style you like. After all, every line has one. It's kind of one of the most standard clothing items out there."
"You'd think so, wouldn't you? I'd been looking for another one like mine for years. Checked every online reseller and Kantonian imports store I could find. Turns out that they stopped making that style in 2003, and then the company went bankrupt. Only 2 stores still make hoodies with that specific fabric blend anymore, and both of them had the wrong thickness and neckline."
"Well, we can check every store in town. After all, Sanctum City is one of Vayera's biggest commercial hubs. If something still exists, then someone's selling it here."
Spark and Arlo visited every clothing store in the Sanctum Center Mall, followed by the Sanctum Center Mall, Squirtle Creek Mall, Willow Place Mall, Park Memorial Multi-Use Complex, and every imports store in the Kantonian district where they'd gone to the night market for Spark's birthday the previous year. Arlo returned to the car empty-handed; Spark with an Elekid plushie he decided he needed. They discussed their findings on the drive back.
"Okay, I understand you objecting to them being too hot, too thick, the wrong fabric, the wrong neckline, or the wrong shade of black, but what was your problem with the last one? It felt just like your old hoodie from what I could tell."
"It was looking at me funny."
"...it's a hoodie. And unlike some of the ones at Subject Debate, it didn't have anyone's face on it."
"It was still looking at me funny."
"Yes, dear. Do you remember the model number of your old hoodie? I know you said they don't make them anymore, but if I know that, I might be able to commission a custom seller to make a replica."
"You really don't need to --"
"Hush. It's clearly important to you and I want to make things right."
"Shikiru-B32. From the Mercury Department Store, 1998 winter line."
"I'll see what I can do. Also, while we're at HQ, I'm going to check my closet to see if there's something else of mine you can borrow until I figure something out. I...kind of need the black and yellow hoodie for team leader stuff. If nothing else, I should still have the one Elaphe got me."
"I don't really like that one. It's too thick."
"Noted. I'll see what I can find."
While Arlo curled into a ball on the couch, covering himself with a blanket as a Shinx sat purring on his lap, Spark combed through his closet, coming up with garments he hadn't worn since getting the Team Instinct job, if not even before then. Eventually, his eyes widened as he found something he felt was suitable.
"Oh, this is going to be so cute."
Spark returned to the Team Instinct common room, Arlo still situated with his blanket and his Shinx, and smiled as Arlo's eyes widened upon seeing what Spark had presented. Held before him was a black and white letterman's jacket with an embroidered Electabuzz, the mascot of Quinque City's Thunder Ridge High School, a Pokeball representing their competitive Pokemon battle circuit for local leagues, and the name...Sebastian? Arlo got up, carefully to avoid disturbing the Shinx, and slid it on, satisfied with finally having his arms covered, but moderately confused.
"Uh, who's Sebastian?"
"Did you really think Spark was on my birth certificate?"
"Uh...yeah. Most of the gym leaders I know have inexplicably type-related names."
"No. I got the nickname 'The Spark' when I was on my high school team, and, well, it stuck. Eventually even my parents started calling me that, so it's what I chose to go by when I got the team leader job."
"Huh. You considering legally changing it?"
"No. I'm totally fine with my given name, and besides, I'm more than just a trainer. I'm also your adorable boyfriend."
Spark enclosed Arlo in a hug, the sensation of feeling his old sports jacket against someone else's skin unusual, but definitely pleasant. Arlo thanked him for the gift, promised he'd return it, and returned to his car, leaving Spark to his research. He pulled out his laptop and started searching his favorite independent craft-selling website for someone who'd be able to make a proper replacement.
Cliff was engaged in his usual post-work activity, namely sitting on the couch in Team GO Rocket's building, watching a televised Pokemon contest and knitting. Sierra didn't pay much mind to it until she noticed some bizarre iconography while walking past and backtracked, staring at Cliff's ongoing project. It was a stuffed quilt made out of a patchwork of pleather straps, what remained of various shirts for metalcore and post-hardcore bands of questionable quality, and of course, the remains of Arlo's hoodie.
"You're spoiling him."
"He's not a child, Sierra."
"First that creepy plushie and now this? You're like the edgiest grandma I've ever seen."
"Everybody needs something to hug."
"Yes, but does it have to be a caricature of his favorite face-tattooed professional asshole?"
"Hey, the smile on his face when he unwrapped it for his birthday made it all worth it."
"So what's the point of all this? And why did you save all these old shirts?"
"I kept them for Ronnie's baby book, but never got around to scrapbooking them in. See? Look at this one!" He held up part of a Motionless In White shirt, the logo for the album it represented gashed through by claw marks and singed on the edges. "See? Look at those little claw marks! He was so cute at that age."
"Oh. Ronnie the Charizard. But why are you doing this?"
"So Arlo can have all his memories with him and can cuddle up with them and Ronnie."
"You're...not talking about the Charizard this time, aren't you?"
"I've still got the feeling that one day he and Spark are going to be talking to a relationship therapist about that thing."
|So, you want a Falling In Reverse hoodie that's an exact replica of this obscure design from a Kantonian department store from the 90s?|
|I can do that for ₱2000, but you do know you could just go to Subject Debate, right?|
|Or, like, their online store?|
|I get if you don't want to financially support Ronnie, but even unofficially, there are cheaper ways to go about this.|
|And there are better ways for you to not scare off business.|
|Oh, I'll take the comm. I just want to let you know that there are other options available.|
|It's for my boyfriend. He's got very specific tastes.|
|I see. Well, this is a pretty basic design, so it should be done in about 2 weeks. Where do you want it shipped to?|
Arlo returned to HQ, still feeling somewhat off, but with it substantially lessened by Spark's support and his letterman's jacket alike. Despite himself, he giggled at playing the role of Spark's high school sweetheart adopting his jacket and subsuming his identity into their own. Sierra rolled her eyes at him when he entered.
"Oh. I take it you had no luck in finding a replacement hoodie?"
"Nope, but Spark let me borrow this so at least my arms don't feel naked!"
"Great. Maybe then you can audition for a Disney Channel sitcom. Anyway, Cliff has something for you. He's been knitting all day."
Cliff emerged from around the corner, bearing the quilt and beaming.
"Here! I couldn't fix your hoodie, but this way you can keep all your memories with you."
Arlo picked up the quilt, squeezing it to assess its stuffing and interior surface, which he found satisfactory. The outer surface was, of course, optimal, being a mosaic of various shirts that his Pokemon had partially destroyed with the embroidered R from his original hoodie in the center. A studded pleather line ran across the outer perimeter. He held it close to his chest and ran back to his room to text Spark a picture of it, only to find that they'd texted first, saying that they had a surprise for him that'd be ready in about 2 weeks and that he could keep their letter jacket until then. Arlo laid out the quilt on his bed and flopped onto it, thinking about how all throughout his life, he'd never thought he'd get to the point he was at then, emotionally, in his transition, or in his embracing of his subcultural identity. But there he was! He had a top surgery appointment the following month, an amazing boyfriend who'd gone out of his way to get him a new hoodie without hesitation upon seeing how important it was to him, and coworkers who'd become friends. Maybe family, since Cliff seemed to at least consider himself something of the sort. He picked up the plushie Cliff had made for him and squeezed it under his arm, the irony that the real person it was modeled after would probably call him slurs over his joy not being lost on him.
2 weeks later, Spark texted Arlo to come over to Team Instinct HQ because the surprise he'd ordered was finally ready. Spark presented the custom hoodie and Arlo examined every metric of it, finding that it was, put shortly, perfect. Its proportions, neckline, and texture matched his previous hoodie exactly. Everything did, except the metallic, dark red, embossed outline of the Falling In Reverse initials emblem in its center.
"It cost me extra to do the custom design like that, but I figured it'd be appropriate. We can make you a T-shirt with the R to put over it for when you're out doing takeovers. So, is it an acceptable facsimile?"
Arlo got up from his enraptured gaze at the hoodie to leap onto Spark and enclose him in a tight, tackling hug, still clutching the hoodie in his arms. Spark responded by moving them both onto the couch, from which, with Arlo already on top of him, his boyfriend proceeded to thank him profusely, both verbally and with his mouth otherwise occupied. Candela would have probably called it stupid that he was so deeply attached to (a) mediocre music with bad lyrics performed by morally compromised people, to put it in her phrasing, (b) that specific hoodie. But he wasn't with Candela then. He was with Spark, who accepted him without questions or judgment.
Holy fuck, he loved him so much. And now, rather than a reminder of his absent father, he had a reminder of his number 1 person (that was to say, Spark) that he could keep with him at all times. He knew what he was about. Out with the old and in with the new, as the saying went. And he could keep the old, too, but stitched in with everything else that had gotten him there. As in, in the literal quilt. But also metaphorically.